CHAPTER II.--LEAF-CLIMBERS.

Plants which climb by the aid of spontaneously revolving and sensitive petioles--Clematis--Tropaeolum--Maurandia, flower-peduncles moving spontaneously and sensitive to a touch--Rhodochiton-- Lophospermum--internodes sensitive--Solanum, thickening of the clasped petioles--Fumaria--Adlumia--Plants which climb by the aid of their produced midribs--Gloriosa--Flagellaria--Nepenthes--Summary on leaf-climbers.

We now come to our second class of climbing plants, namely, those which ascend by the aid of irritable or sensitive organs. For convenience' sake the plants in this class have been grouped under two sub-divisions, namely, leaf-climbers, or those which retain their leaves in a functional condition, and tendril-bearers. But these sub-divisions graduate into each other, as we shall see under Corydalis and the Gloriosa lily.

It has long been observed that several plants climb by the aid of their leaves, either by their petioles (foot-stalks) or by their produced midribs; but beyond this simple fact they have not been described. Palm and Mohl class these plants with those which bear tendrils; but as a leaf is generally a defined object, the present classification, though artificial, has at least some advantages. Leaf-climbers are, moreover, intermediate in many respects between twiners and tendril-bearers. Eight species of Clematis and seven of Tropaeolum were observed, in order to see what amount of difference in the manner of climbing existed within the same genus; and the differences are considerable.

CLEMATIS.--C. glandulosa.--The thin upper internodes revolve, moving against the course of the sun, precisely like those of a true twiner, at an average rate, judging from three revolutions, of 3 hrs. 48 m. The leading shoot immediately twined round a stick placed near it; but, after making an open spire of only one turn and a half, it ascended for a short space straight, and then reversed its course and wound two turns in an opposite direction. This was rendered possible by the straight piece between the opposed spires having become rigid. The simple, broad, ovate leaves of this tropical species, with their short thick petioles, seem but ill-fitted for any movement; and whilst twining up a vertical stick, no use is made of them. Nevertheless, if the footstalk of a young leaf be rubbed with a thin twig a few times on any side, it will in the course of a few hours bend to that side; afterwards becoming straight again. The under side seemed to be the most sensitive; but the sensitiveness or irritability is slight compared to that which we shall meet with in some of the following species; thus, a loop of string, weighing 1.64 grain (106.2 mg.) and hanging for some days on a young footstalk, produced a scarcely perceptible effect. A sketch is here given of two young leaves which had naturally caught hold of two thin branches. A forked twig placed so as to press lightly on the under side of a young footstalk caused it, in 12 hrs., to bend greatly, and ultimately to such an extent that the leaf passed to the opposite side of the stem; the forked stick having been removed, the leaf slowly recovered its former position.

The young leaves spontaneously and gradually change their position: when first developed the petioles are upturned and parallel to the stem; they then slowly bend downwards, remaining for a short time at right angles to the stem, and then become so much arched downwards that the blade of the leaf points to the ground with its tip curled inwards, so that the whole petiole and leaf together form a hook. They are thus enabled to catch hold of any twig with which they may be brought into contact by the revolving movement of the internodes. If this does not happen, they retain their hooked shape for a considerable time, and then bending upwards reassume their original upturned position, which is preserved ever afterwards. The petioles which have clasped any object soon become much thickened and strengthened, as may be seen in the drawing.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 18

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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