That the central glands, if irritated, send centrifugally some influence to the exterior glands, causing them to send back a centripetal influence inducing aggregation, is perhaps the most interesting fact given in this chapter. But the whole process of aggregation is in itself a striking phenomenon. Whenever the peripheral extremity of a nerve is touched or pressed, and a sensation is felt, it is believed that an invisible molecular change is sent from one end of the nerve to the other; but when a gland of Drosera is repeatedly touched or gently pressed, we can actually see a molecular change proceeding from the gland down the tentacle; though this change is probably of a very different nature from that in a nerve. Finally, as so many and such widely different causes excite aggregation, it would appear that the living matter within the gland-cells is in so unstable a condition that almost any disturbance suffices to change its molecular nature, as in the case of certain chemical compounds. And this change in the glands, whether excited directly, or indirectly by a stimulus received from other glands, is transmitted from cell to cell, causing granules of protoplasm either to be actually generated in the previously limpid fluid or to coalesce and thus to become visible.

Supplementary Observations on the Process of Aggregation in the Roots of Plants.

It will hereafter be seen that a weak solution of the carbonate of ammonia induces aggregation in the cells of the roots of Drosera; and this led me to make a few trials on the roots of other plants. I dug up in the latter part of October the first weed which I met with, viz. Euphorbia peplus, being care- [page 64] ful not to injure the roots; these were washed and placed in a little solution of one part of carbonate of ammonia to 146 of water. In less than one minute I saw a cloud travelling from cell to cell up the roots, with wonderful rapidity. After from 8 m. to 9 m. the fine granules, which caused this cloudy appearance, became aggregated towards the extremities of the roots into quadrangular masses of brown matter; and some of these soon changed their forms and became spherical. Some of the cells, however, remained unaffected. I repeated the experiment with another plant of the same species, but before I could get the specimen into focus under the microscope, clouds of granules and quadrangular masses of reddish and brown matter were formed, and had run far up all the roots. A fresh root was now left for 18 hrs. in a drachm of a solution of one part of the carbonate to 437 of water, so that it received 1/8 of a grain, or 2.024 mg. When examined, the cells of all the roots throughout their whole length contained aggregated masses of reddish and brown matter. Before making these experiments, several roots were closely examined, and not a trace of the cloudy appearance or of the granular masses could be seen in any of them. Roots were also immersed for 35 m. in a solution of one part of carbonate of potash to 218 of water; but this salt produced no effect.

I may here add that thin slices of the stem of the Euphorbia were placed in the same solution, and the cells which were green instantly became cloudy, whilst others which were before colourless were clouded with brown, owing to the formation of numerous granules of this tint. I have also seen with various kinds of leaves, left for some time in a solution of carbonate of ammonia, that the grains of chlorophyll ran together and partially coalesced; and this seems to be a form of aggregation.

Plants of duck-weed (Lemna) were left for between 30 m. and 45 m. in a solution of one part of this same salt to 146 of water, and three of their roots were then examined. In two of them, all the cells which had previously contained only limpid fluid now included little green spheres. After from 1 1/2 hr. to 2 hrs. similar spheres appeared in the cells on the borders of the leaves; but whether the ammonia had travelled up the roots or had been directly absorbed by the leaves, I cannot say.

Insectivorous Plants Page 33

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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