were completely re-expanded. It was not the included atropine which produced this effect, for I subsequently ascertained that it is quite powerless. I also procured some extract of hyoscyamus from three shops, and made infusions of the same strength as before. Of these three infusions, only one acted on some of the leaves, which were tried. Though druggists believe that all the albumen is precipitated in the preparation of these drugs, I cannot doubt that some is occasionally retained; and a trace would be sufficient to excite the more sensitive leaves of Drosera. [page 85]

CHAPTER VI.

THE DIGESTIVE POWER OF THE SECRETION OF DROSERA.

The secretion rendered acid by the direct and indirect excitement of the glands--Nature of the acid--Digestible substances--Albumen, its digestion arrested by alkalies, recommences by the addition of an acid--Meat--Fibrin--Syntonin--Areolar tissue--Cartilage--Fibro-cartilage-- Bone--Enamel and dentine--Phosphate of lime--Fibrous basis of bone--Gelatine--Chondrin-- Milk, casein and cheese--Gluten--Legumin--Pollen--Globulin--Haematin--Indigestible substances--Epidermic productions--Fibro-elastic tissue--Mucin--Pepsin--Urea--Chitine-- Cellulose--Gun-cotton--Chlorophyll--Fat and oil--Starch--Action of the secretion on living seeds--Summary and concluding remarks.

AS we have seen that nitrogenous fluids act very differently on the leaves of Drosera from non-nitrogenous fluids, and as the leaves remain clasped for a much longer time over various organic bodies than over inorganic bodies, such as bits of glass, cinder, wood, &c., it becomes an interesting inquiry, whether they can only absorb matter already in solution, or render it soluble,--that is, have the power of digestion. We shall immediately see that they certainly have this power, and that they act on albuminous compounds in exactly the same manner as does the gastric juice of mammals; the digested matter being afterwards absorbed. This fact, which will be clearly proved, is a wonderful one in the physiology of plants. I must here state that I have been aided throughout all my later experiments by many valuable suggestions and assistance given me with the greatest kindness by Dr. Burdon Sanderson. [page 86]

It may be well to premise for the sake of any reader who knows nothing about the digestion of albuminous compounds by animals that this is effected by means of a ferment, pepsin, together with weak hydrochloric acid, though almost any acid will serve. Yet neither pepsin nor an acid by itself has any such power.* We have seen that when the glands of the disc are excited by the contact of any object, especially of one containing nitrogenous matter, the outer tentacles and often the blade become inflected; the leaf being thus converted into a temporary cup or stomach. At the same time the discal glands secrete more copiously, and the secretion becomes acid. Moreover, they transmit some influence to the glands of the exterior tentacles, causing them to pour forth a more copious secretion, which also becomes acid or more acid than it was before.

As this result is an important one, I will give the evidence. The secretion of many glands on thirty leaves, which had not been in any way excited, was tested with litmus paper; and the secretion of twenty-two of these leaves did not in the least affect the colour, whereas that of eight caused an exceedingly feeble and sometimes doubtful tinge of red. Two other old leaves, however, which appeared to have been inflected several times, acted much more decidedly on the paper. Particles of clean glass were then placed on five of the leaves, cubes of albumen on six, and bits of raw meat on three, on none of which was the secretion at this time in the least acid. After an interval of 24 hrs., when almost all the tentacles on

* It appears, however, according to Schiff, and contrary to the opinion of some physiologists, that weak hydrochloric dissolves, though slowly, a very minute quantity of coagulated albumen.

Insectivorous Plants Page 44

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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