The petioles are bowed downwards, and have the same general hook-like form as in C. viticella. The medial petiole and the lateral sub- petioles are sensitive, especially the much bent terminal portion. As the sensitiveness is here greater than in any other species of the genus observed by me, and is in itself remarkable, I will give fuller details. The petioles, when so young that they have not separated from one another, are not sensitive; when the lamina of a leaflet has grown to a quarter of an inch in length (that is, about one-sixth of its full size), the sensitiveness is highest; but at this period the petioles are relatively much more fully developed than are the blades of the leaves. Full-grown petioles are not in the least sensitive. A thin stick placed so as to press lightly against a petiole, having a leaflet a quarter of an inch in length, caused the petiole to bend in 3 hrs. 15 m. In another case a petiole curled completely round a stick in 12 hrs. These petioles were left curled for 24 hrs., and the sticks were then removed; but they never straightened themselves. I took a twig, thinner than the petiole itself, and with it lightly rubbed several petioles four times up and down; these in 1 hr. 45 m. became slightly curled; the curvature increased during some hours and then began to decrease, but after 25 hrs. from the time of rubbing a vestige of the curvature remained. Some other petioles similarly rubbed twice, that is, once up and once down, became perceptibly curved in about 2 hrs. 30 m., the terminal sub-petiole moving more than the lateral sub-petioles; they all became straight again in between 12 hrs. and 14 hrs. Lastly, a length of about one-eighth of an inch of a sub-petiole, was lightly rubbed with the same twig only once; it became slightly curved in 3 hrs., remaining so during 11 hrs., but by the next morning was quite straight.

The following observations are more precise. After trying heavier pieces of string and thread, I placed a loop of fine string, weighing 1.04 gr. (67.4 mg.) on a terminal sub-petiole: in 6 hrs. 40 m. a curvature could be seen; in 24 hrs. the petiole formed an open ring round the string; in 48 hrs. the ring had almost closed on the string, and in 72 hrs. seized it so firmly, that some force was necessary for its withdrawal. A loop weighing 0.52 of a grain (33.7 mg.) caused in 14 hrs. a lateral sub-petiole just perceptibly to curve, and in 24 hrs. it moved through ninety degrees. These observations were made during the summer: the following were made in the spring, when the petioles apparently are more sensitive:- A loop of thread, weighing one-eighth of a grain (8.1 mg.), produced no effect on the lateral sub-petioles, but placed on a terminal one, caused it, after 24 hrs., to curve moderately; the curvature, though the loop remained suspended, was after 48 hrs. diminished, but never disappeared; showing that the petiole had become partially accustomed to the insufficient stimulus. This experiment was twice repeated with nearly the same result. Lastly, a loop of thread, weighing only one-sixteenth of a grain (4.05 mg.) was twice gently placed by a forceps on a terminal sub-petiole (the plant being, of course, in a still and closed room), and this weight certainly caused a flexure, which very slowly increased until the petiole moved through nearly ninety degrees: beyond this it did not move; nor did the petiole, the loop remaining suspended, ever become perfectly straight again.

When we consider, on the one hand, the thickness and stiffness of the petioles, and, on the other hand, the thinness and softness of fine cotton thread, and what an extremely small weight one-sixteenth of a grain (4.05 mg.) is, these facts are remarkable. But I have reason to believe that even a less weight excites curvature when pressing over a broader surface than that acted on by a thread. Having noticed that the end of a suspended string which accidentally touched a petiole, caused it to bend, I took two pieces of thin twine, 10 inches in length (weighing 1.64 gr.), and, tying them to a stick, let them hang as nearly perpendicularly downwards as their thinness and flexuous form, after being stretched, would permit; I then quietly placed their ends so as just to rest on two petioles, and these certainly became curved in 36 hrs. One of the ends touched the angle between a terminal and lateral sub-petiole, and it was in 48 hours caught between them as by a forceps. In these cases the pressure, though spread over a wider surface than that touched by the cotton thread, must have been excessively slight.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 22

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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