SOLANACEAE.--Solanum jasminoides.--Some of the species in this large genus are twiners; but the present species is a true leaf-climber. A long, nearly upright shoot made four revolutions, moving against the sun, very regularly at an average rate of 3 hrs. 26 m. The shoots, however, sometimes stood still. It is considered a greenhouse plant; but when kept there, the petioles took several days to clasp a stick: in the hothouse a stick was clasped in 7 hrs. In the greenhouse a petiole was not affected by a loop of string, suspended during several days and weighing 2.5 grains (163 mg.); but in the hothouse one was made to curve by a loop weighing 1.64 gr. (106.27 mg.); and, on the removal of the string, it became straight again. Another petiole was not at all acted on by a loop weighing only 0.82 of a grain (53.14 mg.) We have seen that the petioles of some other leaf- climbing plants are affected by one-thirteenth of this latter weight. In this species, and in no other leaf-climber seen by me, a full- grown leaf is capable of clasping a stick; but in the greenhouse the movement was so extraordinarily slow that the act required several weeks; on each succeeding week it was clear that the petiole had become more and more curved, until at last it firmly clasped the stick.

The flexible petiole of a half or a quarter grown leaf which has clasped an object for three or four days increases much in thickness, and after several weeks becomes so wonderfully hard and rigid that it can hardly be removed from its support. On comparing a thin transverse slice of such a petiole with one from an older leaf growing close beneath, which had not clasped anything, its diameter was found to be fully doubled, and its structure greatly changed. In two other petioles similarly compared, and here represented, the increase in diameter was not quite so great. In the section of the petiole in its ordinary state (A), we see a semilunar band of cellular tissue (not well shown in the woodcut) differing slightly in appearance from that outside it, and including three closely approximate groups of dark vessels. Near the upper surface of the petiole, beneath two exterior ridges, there are two other small circular groups of vessels. In the section of the petiole (B) which had clasped during several weeks a stick, the two exterior ridges have become much less prominent, and the two groups of woody vessels beneath them much increased in diameter. The semilunar band has been converted into a complete ring of very hard, white, woody tissue, with lines radiating from the centre. The three groups of vessels, which, though near together, were before distinct, are now completely blended. The upper part of this ring of woody vessels, formed by the prolongation of the horns of the original semilunar band, is narrower than the lower part, and slightly less compact. This petiole after clasping the stick had actually become thicker than the stem from which it arose; and this was chiefly due to the increased thickness of the ring of wood. This ring presented, both in a transverse and longitudinal section, a closely similar structure to that of the stem. It is a singular morphological fact that the petiole should thus acquire a structure almost identically the same with that of the axis; and it is a still more singular physiological fact that so great a change should have been induced by the mere act of clasping a support. {23}

FUMARIACEAE.--Fumaria officinalis.--It could not have been anticipated that so lowly a plant as this Fumaria should have been a climber. It climbs by the aid of the main and lateral petioles of its compound leaves; and even the much-flattened terminal portion of the petiole can seize a support. I have seen a substance as soft as a withered blade of grass caught. Petioles which have clasped any object ultimately become rather thicker and more cylindrical. On lightly rubbing several petioles with a twig, they became perceptibly curved in 1 hr. 15 m., and subsequently straightened themselves. A stick gently placed in the angle between two sub-petioles excited them to move, and was almost clasped in 9 hrs. A loop of thread, weighing one-eighth of a grain, caused, after 12 hrs. and before 20 hrs, had elapsed, a considerable curvature; but it was never fairly clasped by the petiole. The young internodes are in continual movement, which is considerable in extent, but very irregular; a zigzag line, or a spire crossing itself; or a figure of 8 being formed. The course during 12 hrs., when traced on a bell-glass, apparently represented about four ellipses. The leaves themselves likewise move spontaneously, the main petioles curving themselves in accordance with the movements of the internodes; so that when the latter moved to one side, the petioles moved to the same side, then, becoming straight, reversed their curvature. The petioles, however, do not move over a wide space, as could be seen when a shoot was securely tied to a stick. The leaf in this case followed an irregular course, like that made by the internodes.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 27

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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