If the tentacles of a young, yet fully matured leaf, that has never been excited or become inflected, be examined, the cells forming the pedicels are seen to be filled with homogeneous, purple fluid. The walls are lined by a layer of colourless, circulating protoplasm; but this can be seen with much greater distinctness after the process of aggregation has been partly effected than before. The purple fluid which exudes from a crushed tentacle is somewhat coherent, and does not mingle with the surrounding water; it contains much flocculent or granular matter. But this matter may have been generated by the cells having been crushed; some degree of aggregation having been thus almost instantly caused. [page 39]

If a tentacle is examined some hours after the gland has been excited by repeated touches, or by an inorganic or organic particle placed on it, or by the absorption of certain fluids, it presents a wholly changed appearance. The cells, instead of being filled with homogeneous purple fluid, now contain variously shaped masses of purple matter, suspended in a colourless or almost colourless fluid. The change is so conspicuous that it is visible through a weak lens, and even sometimes by the naked eye; the tentacles now have a mottled appearance, so that one thus affected can be picked out with ease from all the others. The same result follows if the glands on the disc are irritated in any manner, so that the exterior tentacles become inflected; for their contents will then be found in an aggregated condition, although their glands have not as yet touched any object. But aggregation may occur independently of inflection, as we shall presently see. By whatever cause the process may have been excited, it commences within the glands, and then travels down the tentacles. It can be observed much more distinctly in the upper cells of the pedicels than within the glands, as these are somewhat opaque. Shortly after the tentacles have re-expanded, the little masses of protoplasm are all redissolved, and the purple fluid within the cells becomes as homogeneous and transparent as it was at first. The process of redissolution travels upwards from the bases of the tentacles to the glands, and therefore in a reversed direction to that of aggregation. Tentacles in an aggregated condition were shown to Prof. Huxley, Dr. Hooker, and Dr. Burdon Sanderson, who observed the changes under the microscope, and were much struck with the whole phenomenon. [page 40]

The little masses of aggregated matter are of the most diversified shapes, often spherical or oval, sometimes much elongated, or quite irregular with thread- or necklace-like or club-formed projections. They consist of thick, apparently viscid matter, which in the exterior tentacles is of a purplish, and in the short distal tentacles of a greenish, colour. These little masses incessantly change their forms and positions, being never at rest. A single mass will often separate into two, which afterwards reunite. Their movements are rather slow, and resemble those of Amoebae or of the white corpuscles of the blood. We

FIG. 7. (Drosera rotundifolia.) Diagram of the same cell of a tentacle, showing the various forms successively assumed by the aggregated masses of protoplasm.

may, therefore, conclude that they consist of protoplasm. If their shapes are sketched at intervals of a few minutes, they are invariably seen to have undergone great changes of form; and the same cell has been observed for several hours. Eight rude, though accurate sketches of the same cell, made at intervals of between 2 m. or 3 m., are here given (fig. 7), and illustrate some of the simpler and commonest changes. The cell A, when first sketched, included two oval masses of purple protoplasm touching each other. These became separate, as shown at B, and then reunited, as at C. After the next interval a very common appearance was presented-- [page 41] D, namely, the formation of an extremely minute sphere at one end of an elongated mass. This rapidly increased in size, as shown in E, and was then re-absorbed, as at F, by which time another sphere had been formed at the opposite end.

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Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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