Splinters of clean glass were scattered on a large number of leaves, and these became moderately inflected. They were cut off and divided into three lots; two of them, after being left for some time in a little distilled water, were strained, and some dis-

* Sachs remarks ('Trait de Bot.' 1874, p. 774), that cells which are killed by freezing, by too great heat, or by chemical agents, allow all their colouring matter to escape into the surrounding water. [page 97]

coloured, viscid, slightly acid fluid was thus obtained. The third lot was well soaked in a few drops of glycerine, which is well known to dissolve pepsin. Cubes of albumen (1/20 of an inch) were now placed in the three fluids in watch-glasses, some of which were kept for several days at about 90o Fahr. (32o.2 Cent.), and others at the temperature of my room; but none of the cubes were dissolved, the angles remaining as sharp as ever. This fact probably indicates that the ferment is not secreted until the glands are excited by the absorption of a minute quantity of already soluble animal matter,--a conclusion which is supported by what we shall hereafter see with respect to Dionaea. Dr. Hooker likewise found that, although the fluid within the pitchers of Nepenthes possesses extraordinary power of digestion, yet when removed from the pitchers before they have been excited and placed in a vessel, it has no such power, although it is already acid; and we can account for this fact only on the supposition that the proper ferment is not secreted until some exciting matter is absorbed.

On three other occasions eight leaves were strongly excited with albumen moistened with saliva; they were then cut off, and allowed to soak for several hours or for a whole day in a few drops of glycerine. Some of this extract was added to a little hydrochloric acid of various strengths (generally one to 400 of water), and minute cubes of albumen were placed in the mixture.* In two of these trials the cubes were not in the least acted on; but in the third

* As a control experiment bits of albumen were placed in the same glycerine with hydrochloric acid of the same strength; and the albumen, as might have been expected, was not in the least affected after two days. [page 98]

the experiment was successful. For in a vessel containing two cubes, both were reduced in size in 3 hrs.; and after 24 hrs. mere streaks of undissolved albumen were left. In a second vessel, containing two minute ragged bits of albumen, both were likewise reduced in size in 3 hrs., and after 24 hrs. completely disappeared. I then added a little weak hydrochloric acid to both vessels, and placed fresh cubes of albumen in them; but these were not acted on. This latter fact is intelligible according to the high authority of Schiff,* who has demonstrated, as he believes, in opposition to the view held by some physiologists, that a certain small amount of pepsin is destroyed during the act of digestion. So that if my solution contained, as is probable, an extremely small amount of the ferment, this would have been consumed by the dissolution of the cubes of albumen first given; none being left when the hydrochloric acid was added. The destruction of the ferment during the process of digestion, or its absorption after the albumen had been converted into a peptone, will also account for only one out of the three latter sets of experiments having been successful.

Digestion of Roast Meat.--Cubes of about 1/20 of an inch (1.27 mm.) of moderately roasted meat were placed on five leaves which became in 12 hrs. closely inflected. After 48 hrs. I gently opened one leaf, and the meat now consisted of a minute central sphere, partially digested and surrounded by a thick envelope of transparent viscid fluid. The whole, without being much disturbed, was removed and placed under the microscope. In the central part the transverse striae on the muscular fibres were quite distinct; and it was

* 'Leons phys. de la Digestion,' 1867, tom. ii. pp. 114-126. [page 99]

interesting to observe how gradually they disappeared, when the same fibre was traced into the surrounding fluid.

Insectivorous Plants Page 50

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book