When a revolving shoot strikes a stick, it winds round it rather more slowly than it revolves. For instance, a shoot of the Ceropegia, revolved in 6 hrs., but took 9 hrs. 30 m. to make one complete spire round a stick; Aristolochia gigas revolved in about 5 hrs., but took 9 hrs. 15 m. to complete its spire. This, I presume, is due to the continued disturbance of the impelling force by the arrestment of the movement at successive points; and we shall hereafter see that even shaking a plant retards the revolving movement. The terminal internodes of a long, much-inclined, revolving shoot of the Ceropegia, after they had wound round a stick, always slipped up it, so as to render the spire more open than it was at first; and this was probably in part due to the force which caused the revolutions, being now almost freed from the constraint of gravity and allowed to act freely. With the Wistaria, on the other hand, a long horizontal shoot wound itself at first into a very close spire, which remained unchanged; but subsequently, as the shoot twined spirally up its support, it made a much more open spire. With all the many plants which were allowed freely to ascend a support, the terminal internodes made at first a close spire; and this, during windy weather, served to keep the shoots in close contact with their support; but as the penultimate internodes grew in length, they pushed themselves up for a considerable space (ascertained by coloured marks on the shoot and on the support) round the stick, and the spire became more open. {13}

It follows from this latter fact that the position occupied by each leaf with respect to the support depends on the growth of the internodes after they have become spirally wound round it. I mention this on account of an observation by Palm (p. 34), who states that the opposite leaves of the Hop always stand in a row, exactly over one another, on the same side of the supporting stick, whatever its thickness may be. My sons visited a hop-field for me, and reported that though they generally found the points of insertion of the leaves standing over each other for a space of two or three feet in height, yet this never occurred up the whole length of the pole; the points of insertion forming, as might have been expected, an irregular spire. Any irregularity in the pole entirely destroyed the regularity of position of the leaves. From casual inspection, it appeared to me that the opposite leaves of Thunbergia alata were arranged in lines up the sticks round which they had twined; accordingly, I raised a dozen plants, and gave them sticks of various thicknesses, as well as string, to twine round; and in this case one alone out of the dozen had its leaves arranged in a perpendicular line: I conclude, therefore, Palm's statement is not quite accurate.

The leaves of different twining-plants are arranged on the stem (before it has twined) alternately, or oppositely, or in a spire. In the latter case the line of insertion of the leaves and the course of the revolutions coincide. This fact has been well shown by Dutrochet, {14} who found different individuals of Solanum dulcamara twining in opposite directions, and these had their leaves in each case spirally arranged in the same direction. A dense whorl of many leaves would apparently be incommodious for a twining plant, and some authors assert that none have their leaves thus arranged; but a twining Siphomeris has whorls of three leaves.

If a stick which has arrested a revolving shoot, but has not as yet been encircled, be suddenly taken away, the shoot generally springs forward, showing that it was pressing with some force against the stick. After a shoot has wound round a stick, if this be withdrawn, it retains for a time its spiral form; it then straightens itself, and again commences to revolve. The long, much-inclined shoot of the Ceropegia previously alluded to offered some curious peculiarities. The lower and older internodes, which continued to revolve, were incapable, on repeated trials, of twining round a thin stick; showing that, although the power of movement was retained, this was not sufficient to enable the plant to twine. I then moved the stick to a greater distance, so that it was struck by a point 2.5 inches from the extremity of the penultimate internode; and it was then neatly encircled by this part of the penultimate and by the ultimate internode. After leaving the spirally wound shoot for eleven hours, I quietly withdrew the stick, and in the course of the day the curled portion straightened itself and recommenced revolving; but the lower and not curled portion of the penultimate internode did not move, a sort of hinge separating the moving and the motionless part of the same internode. After a few days, however, I found that this lower part had likewise recovered its revolving power. These several facts show that the power of movement is not immediately lost in the arrested portion of a revolving shoot; and that after being temporarily lost it can be recovered. When a shoot has remained for a considerable time round a support, it permanently retains its spiral form even when the support is removed.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 08

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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