Nevertheless, the movements of the plant are not perfectly adapted to its requirements; for if a bit of dry moss, peat, or other rubbish, is blown on to the disc, as often happens, the tentacles clasp it in a useless manner. They soon, however, discover their mistake and release such innutritious objects.
It is also a remarkable fact, that drops of water falling from a height, whether under the form of natural or artificial rain, do not cause the tentacles to move; yet the drops must strike the glands with considerable force, more especially after the secretion has been all washed away by heavy rain; and this often occurs, [page 36] though the secretion is so viscid that it can be removed with difficulty merely by waving the leaves in water. If the falling drops of water are small, they adhere to the secretion, the weight of which must be increased in a much greater degree, as before remarked, than by the addition of minute particles of solid matter; yet the drops never cause the tentacles to become inflected. It would obviously have been a great evil to the plant (as in the case of occasional touches) if the tentacles were excited to bend by every shower of rain; but this evil has been avoided by the glands either having become through habit insensible to the blows and prolonged pressure of drops of water, or to their having been originally rendered sensitive solely to the contact of solid bodies. We shall hereafter see that the filaments on the leaves of Dionaea are likewise insensible to the impact of fluids, though exquisitely sensitive to momentary touches from any solid body.
When the pedicel of a tentacle is cut off by a sharp pair of scissors quite close beneath the gland, the tentacle generally becomes inflected. I tried this experiment repeatedly, as I was much surprised at the fact, for all other parts of the pedicels are insensible to any stimulus. These headless tentacles after a time re-expand; but I shall return to this subject. On the other hand, I occasionally succeeded in crushing a gland between a pair of pincers, but this caused no inflection. In this latter case the tentacles seem paralysed, as likewise follows from the action of too strong solutions of certain salts, and by too great heat, whilst weaker solutions of the same salts and a more gentle heat cause movement. We shall also see in future chapters that various other fluids, some [page 37] vapours, and oxygen (after the plant has been for some time excluded from its action), all induce inflection, and this likewise results from an induced galvanic current.*
* My son Francis, guided by the observations of Dr. Burdon Sanderson on Dionaea, finds that if two needles are inserted into the blade of a leaf of Drosera, the tentacles do not move; but that if similar needles in connection with the secondary coil of a Du Bois inductive apparatus are inserted, the tentacles curve inwards in the course of a few minutes. My son hopes soon to publish an account of his observations. [page 38]
AGGREGATION OF THE PROTOPLASM WITHIN THE CELLS OF THE TENTACLES.
Nature of the contents of the cells before aggregation--Various causes which excite aggregation--The process commences within the glands and travels down the tentacles-- Description of the aggregated masses and of their spontaneous movements--Currents of protoplasm along the walls of the cells--Action of carbonate of ammonia--The granules in the protoplasm which flows along the walls coalesce with the central masses--Minuteness of the quantity of carbonate of ammonia causing aggregation--Action of other salts of ammonia--Of other substances, organic fluids, &c.--Of water--Of heat--Redissolution of the aggregated masses--Proximate causes of the aggregation of the protoplasm--Summary and concluding remarks--Supplementary observations on aggregation in the roots of plants.
I WILL here interrupt my account of the movements of the leaves, and describe the phenomenon of aggregation, to which subject I have already alluded.