On the discs of the four other leaves (to one of which a rather large bit had been given) nothing was left except some transparent viscid fluid. I may add that some of this tissue included points of black pigment, and these were not at all affected. As a control experiment, small portions of this tissue were left in water and on wet moss for the same length of time, and remained white and opaque. From these facts it is clear that areolar tissue is easily and quickly digested by the secretion; but that it does not greatly excite the leaves.

Cartilage.--Three cubes (1/20 of an inch or 1.27 mm.) of white, translucent, extremely tough cartilage were cut from the end of a slightly roasted leg-bone of a sheep. These were placed on three leaves, borne by poor, small plants in my greenhouse during November; and it seemed in the highest degree improbable that so hard a substance would be digested under such unfavourable circumstances. Nevertheless, after 48 hrs., the cubes were largely dissolved and converted into minute spheres, surrounded by transparent, very acid fluid. Two of these spheres were completely softened to their centres; whilst the third still contained a very small irregularly shaped core of solid cartilage. Their surfaces were seen under the microscope to be curiously marked by prominent ridges, showing that the cartilage had been unequally corroded by the secretion. I need hardly [page 104] say that cubes of the same cartilage, kept in water for the same length of time, were not in the least affected.

During a more favourable season, moderately sized bits of the skinned ear of a cat, which includes cartilage, areolar and elastic tissue, were placed on three leaves. Some of the glands were touched with saliva, which caused prompt inflection. Two of the leaves began to re-expand after three days, and the third on the fifth day. The fluid residue left on their discs was now examined, and consisted in one case of perfectly transparent, viscid matter; in the other two cases, it contained some elastic tissue and apparently remnants of half digested areolar tissue.

Fibro-cartilage (from between the vertebrae of the tail of a sheep). Moderately sized and small bits (the latter about 1/20 of an inch) were placed on nine leaves. Some of these were well and some very little inflected. In the latter case the bits were dragged over the discs, so that they were well bedaubed with the secretion, and many glands thus irritated. All the leaves re-expanded after only two days; so that they were but little excited by this substance. The bits were not liquefied, but were certainly in an altered condition, being swollen, much more transparent, and so tender as to disintegrate very easily. My son Francis prepared some artificial gastric juice, which was proved efficient by quickly dissolving fibrin, and suspended portions of the fibro-cartilage in it. These swelled and became hyaline, exactly like those exposed to the secretion of Drosera, but were not dissolved. This result surprised me much, as two physiologists were of opinion that fibro-cartilage would be easily digested by gastric juice. I therefore asked Dr. Klein to examine the specimens; and [page 105] he reports that the two which had been subjected to artificial gastric juice were "in that state of digestion in which we find connective tissue when treated with an acid, viz. swollen, more or less hyaline, the fibrillar bundles having become homogeneous and lost their fibrillar structure." In the specimens which had been left on the leaves of Drosera, until they re-expanded, "parts were altered, though only slightly so, in the same manner as those subjected to the gastric juice as they had become more transparent, almost hyaline, with the fibrillation of the bundles indistinct." Fibro-cartilage is therefore acted on in nearly the same manner by gastric juice and by the secretion of Drosera.

Bone.--Small smooth bits of the dried hyoidal bone of a fowl moistened with saliva were placed on two leaves, and a similarly moistened splinter of an extremely hard, broiled mutton-chop bone on a third leaf.

Insectivorous Plants Page 53

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book