As this movement is rather difficult to understand, it will be well to give an illustration. Take a sapling and bend it to the south, and paint a black line on the convex surface; let the sapling spring up and bend it to the east, and the black line will be seen to run along the lateral face fronting the north; bend it to the north, the black line will be on the concave surface; bend it to the west, the line will again be on the lateral face; and when again bent to the south, the line will be on the original convex surface. Now, instead of bending the sapling, let us suppose that the cells along its northern surface from the base to the tip were to grow much more rapidly than on the three other sides, the whole shoot would then necessarily be bowed to the south; and let the longitudinal growing surface creep round the shoot, deserting by slow degrees the northern side and encroaching on the western side, and so round by the south, by the east, again to the north. In this case the shoot would remain always bowed with the painted line appearing on the several above specified surfaces, and with the point of the shoot successively directed to each point of the compass. In fact, we should have the exact kind of movement performed by the revolving shoots of twining plants. {9}

It must not be supposed that the revolving movement is as regular as that given in the above illustration; in very many cases the tip describes an ellipse, even a very narrow ellipse. To recur once again to our illustration, if we suppose only the northern and southern surfaces of the sapling alternately to grow rapidly, the summit would describe a simple arc; if the growth first travelled a very little to the western face, and during the return a very little to the eastern face, a narrow ellipse would be described; and the sapling would be straight as it passed to and fro through the intermediate space; and a complete straightening of the shoot may often be observed in revolving plants. The movement is frequently such that three of the sides of the shoot seem to be growing in due order more rapidly than the remaining side; so that a semi-circle instead of a circle is described, the shoot becoming straight and upright during half of its course.

When a revolving shoot consists of several internodes, the lower ones bend together at the same rate, but one or two of the terminal ones bend at a slower rate; hence, though at times all the internodes are in the same direction, at other times the shoot is rendered slightly serpentine. The rate of revolution of the whole shoot, if judged by the movement of the extreme tip, is thus at times accelerated or retarded. One other point must be noticed. Authors have observed that the end of the shoot in many twining plants is completely hooked; this is very general, for instance, with the Asclepiadaceae. The hooked tip, in all the cases observed by me, viz, in Ceropegia, Sphaerostemma, Clerodendron, Wistaria, Stephania, Akebia, and Siphomeris, has exactly the same kind of movement as the other internodes; for a line painted on the convex surface first becomes lateral and then concave; but, owing to the youth of these terminal internodes, the reversal of the hook is a slower process than that of the revolving movement. {10} This strongly marked tendency in the young, terminal and flexible internodes, to bend in a greater degree or more abruptly than the other internodes, is of service to the plant; for not only does the hook thus formed sometimes serve to catch a support, but (and this seems to be much more important) it causes the extremity of the shoot to embrace the support much more closely than it could otherwise have done, and thus aids in preventing the stem from being blown away during windy weather, as I have many times observed. In Lonicera brachypoda the hook only straightens itself periodically, and never becomes reversed. I will not assert that the tips of all twining plants when hooked, either reverse themselves or become periodically straight, in the manner just described; for the hooked form may in some cases be permanent, and be due to the manner of growth of the species, as with the tips of the shoots of the common vine, and more plainly with those of Cissus discolor--plants which are not spiral twiners.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 06

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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