A greater number of twiners revolve in a course opposed to that of the sun, or to the hands of a watch, than in the reversed course, and, consequently, the majority, as is well known, ascend their supports from left to right. Occasionally, though rarely, plants of the same order twine in opposite directions, of which Mohl (p. 125) gives a case in the Leguminosae, and we have in the table another in the Acanthaceae. I have seen no instance of two species of the same genus twining in opposite directions, and such cases must be rare; but Fritz Muller {16} states that although Mikania scandens twines, as I have described, from left to right, another species in South Brazil twines in an opposite direction. It would have been an anomalous circumstance if no such cases had occurred, for different individuals of the same species, namely, of Solanum dulcamara (Dutrochet, tom. xix. p. 299), revolve and twine in two directions: this plant, however; is a most feeble twiner. Loasa aurantiaca (Leon, p. 351) offers a much more curious case: I raised seventeen plants: of these eight revolved in opposition to the sun and ascended from left to right; five followed the sun and ascended from right to left; and four revolved and twined first in one direction, and then reversed their course, {17} the petioles of the opposite leaves affording a point d'appui for the reversal of the spire. One of these four plants made seven spiral turns from right to left, and five turns from left to right. Another plant in the same family, the Scyphanthus elegans, habitually twines in this same manner. I raised many plants of it, and the stems of all took one turn, or occasionally two or even three turns in one direction, and then, ascending for a short space straight, reversed their course and took one or two turns in an opposite direction. The reversal of the curvature occurred at any point in the stem, even in the middle of an internode. Had I not seen this case, I should have thought its occurrence most improbable. It would be hardly possible with any plant which ascended above a few feet in height, or which lived in an exposed situation; for the stem could be pulled away easily from its support, with but little unwinding; nor could it have adhered at all, had not the internodes soon become moderately rigid. With leaf- climbers, as we shall soon see, analogous cases frequently occur; but these present no difficulty, as the stem is secured by the clasping petioles.

In the many other revolving and twining plants observed by me, I never but twice saw the movement reversed; once, and only for a short space, in Ipomoea jucunda; but frequently with Hibbertia dentata. This plant at first perplexed me much, for I continually observed its long and flexible shoots, evidently well fitted for twining, make a whole, or half, or quarter circle in one direction and then in an opposite direction; consequently, when I placed the shoots near thin or thick sticks, or perpendicularly stretched string, they seemed as if constantly trying to ascend, but always failed. I then surrounded the plant with a mass of branched twigs; the shoots ascended, and passed through them, but several came out laterally, and their depending extremities seldom turned upwards as is usual with twining plants. Finally, I surrounded a second plant with many thin upright sticks, and placed it near the first one with twigs; and now both had got what they liked, for they twined up the parallel sticks, sometimes winding round one and sometimes round several; and the shoots travelled laterally from one to the other pot; but as the plants grew older, some of the shoots twined regularly up thin upright sticks. Though the revolving movement was sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other, the twining was invariably from left to right; {18} so that the more potent or persistent movement of revolution must have been in opposition to the course of the sun. It would appear that this Hibbertia is adapted both to ascend by twining, and to ramble laterally through the thick Australian scrub.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 14

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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