closely embraced the meat both with their tentacles and blades; and the protoplasm within their cells was well aggregated. Three ounces of doubly distilled water was heated in a porcelain vessel, with a delicate thermometer having a long bulb obliquely suspended in it. The water was gradually raised to the required temperature by a spirit-lamp moved about under the vessel; and in all cases the leaves were continually waved for some minutes close to the bulb. They were then placed in cold water, or in a solution of carbonate of ammonia. In other cases they were left in the water, which had been raised to a certain temperature, until it cooled. Again in other cases the leaves were suddenly plunged into water of a certain temperature, and kept there for a specified time. Considering that the tentacles are extremely delicate, and that their coats are very thin, it seems scarcely possible that the fluid contents of their cells should not have been heated to within a degree or two of the temperature of the surrounding water. Any further precautions would, I think, have been superfluous, as the leaves from age or constitutional causes differ slightly in their sensitiveness to heat.

It will be convenient first briefly to describe the effects of immersion for thirty seconds in boiling water. The leaves are rendered flaccid, with their tentacles bowed backwards, which, as we shall see in a future chapter, is probably due to their outer surfaces retaining their elasticity for a longer period than their inner surfaces retain the power of contraction. The purple fluid within the cells of the pedicels is rendered finely granular, but there is no true aggregation; nor does this follow [page 68] when the leaves are subsequently placed in a solution of carbonate of ammonia. But the most remarkable change is that the glands become opaque and uniformly white; and this may be attributed to the coagulation of their albuminous contents.

My first and preliminary experiment consisted in putting seven leaves in the same vessel of water, and warming it slowly up to the temperature of 110o Fahr. (43o.3 Cent.); a leaf being taken out as soon as the temperature rose to 80o (26o.6 Cent.), another at 85o, another at 90o, and so on. Each leaf, when taken out, was placed in water at the temperature of my room, and the tentacles of all soon became slightly, though irregularly, inflected. They were now removed from the cold water and kept in damp air, with bits of meat placed on their discs. The leaf which had been exposed to the temperature of 110o became in 15 m. greatly inflected; and in 2 hrs. every single tentacle closely embraced the meat. So it was, but after rather longer intervals, with the six other leaves. It appears, therefore, that the warm bath had increased their sensitiveness when excited by meat.

I next observed the degree of inflection which leaves underwent within stated periods, whilst still immersed in warm water, kept as nearly as possible at the same temperature; but I will here and elsewhere give only a few of the many trials made. A leaf was left for 10 m. in water at 100o (37o.7 Cent.), but no inflection occurred. A second leaf, however, treated in the same manner, had a few of its exterior tentacles very slightly inflected in 6 m., and several irregularly but not closely inflected in 10 m. A third leaf, kept in water at 105o to 106o (40o.5 to 41o.1 Cent.), was very moderately inflected in 6 m. A fourth leaf, in water at 110o (43o.3 Cent.), was somewhat inflected in 4 m., and considerably so in from 6 to 7 m.

Three leaves were placed in water which was heated rather quickly, and by the time the temperature rose to 115o-116o (46o.1 to 46o.06 Cent.), all three were inflected. I then removed the lamp, and in a few minutes every single tentacle was closely inflected. The protoplasm within the cells was not killed, for it was seen to be in distinct movement; and the leaves, having been left in cold water for 20 hrs., re-expanded. Another leaf was immersed in water at 100o (37.7o Cent.), which was raised to 120o (48o.8 Cent.); and all the tentacles, except the extreme marginal ones, soon became closely inflected.

Insectivorous Plants Page 35

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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