The cell above figured was from a tentacle of a dark red leaf, which had caught a small moth, and was examined under water. As I at first thought that the movements of the masses might be due to the absorption of water, I placed a fly on a leaf, and when after 18 hrs. all the tentacles were well inflected, these were examined without being immersed in water. The cell

FIG. 8. (Drosera rotundifolia.) Diagram of the same cell of a tentacle, showing the various forms successively assumed by the aggregated masses of protoplasm.

here represented (fig. 8) was from this leaf, being sketched eight times in the course of 15 m. These sketches exhibit some of the more remarkable changes which the protoplasm undergoes. At first, there was at the base of the cell 1, a little mass on a short footstalk, and a larger mass near the upper end, and these seemed quite separate. Nevertheless, they may have been connected by a fine and invisible thread of protoplasm, for on two other occasions, whilst one mass was rapidly increasing, and another in the same cell rapidly decreasing, I was able by varying the light and using a high power, to detect a connecting thread of extreme tenuity, which evidently served as [page 42] the channel of communication between the two. On the other hand, such connecting threads are sometimes seen to break, and their extremities then quickly become club-headed. The other sketches in fig. 8 show the forms successively assumed.

Shortly after the purple fluid within the cells has become aggregated, the little masses float about in a colourless or almost colourless fluid; and the layer of white granular protoplasm which flows along the walls can now be seen much more distinctly. The stream flows at an irregular rate, up one wall and down the opposite one, generally at a slower rate across the narrow ends of the elongated cells, and so round and round. But the current sometimes ceases. The movement is often in waves, and their crests sometimes stretch almost across the whole width of the cell, and then sink down again. Small spheres of protoplasm, apparently quite free, are often driven by the current round the cells; and filaments attached to the central masses are swayed to and fro, as if struggling to escape. Altogether, one of these cells with the ever changing central masses, and with the layer of protoplasm flowing round the walls, presents a wonderful scene of vital activity.

[Many observations were made on the contents of the cells whilst undergoing the process of aggregation, but I shall detail only a few cases under different heads. A small portion of a leaf was cut off, placed under a high power, and the glands very gently pressed under a compressor. In 15 m. I distinctly saw extremely minute spheres of protoplasm aggregating themselves in the purple fluid; these rapidly increased in size, both within the cells of the glands and of the upper ends of the pedicels. Particles of glass, cork, and cinders were also placed on the glands of many tentacles; in 1 hr. several of them were inflected, but after 1 hr. 35 m. there was no aggregation. Other tentacles with these particles were examined after 8 hrs., and [page 43] now all their cells had undergone aggregation; so had the cells of the exterior tentacles which had become inflected through the irritation transmitted from the glands of the disc, on which the transported particles rested. This was likewise the case with the short tentacles round the margins of the disc, which had not as yet become inflected. This latter fact shows that the process of aggregation is independent of the inflection of the tentacles, of which indeed we have other and abundant evidence. Again, the exterior tentacles on three leaves were carefully examined, and found to contain only homogeneous purple fluid; little bits of thread were then placed on the glands of three of them, and after 22 hrs. the purple fluid in their cells almost down to their bases was aggregated into innumerable, spherical, elongated, or filamentous masses of protoplasm.

Insectivorous Plants Page 21

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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