When the stem is secured, the tendrils are seen to revolve in nearly the same manner and at the same rate as the internodes. {34} The tendrils are very thin, delicate, and straight, with the exception of the tips, which are a little curved; they are from 7 to 9 inches in length. A half-grown tendril is not sensitive; but when nearly full- grown they are extremely sensitive. A single delicate touch on the concave surface of the tip soon caused one to curve; and in 2 minutes it formed an open helix. A loop of soft thread weighing one thirty- second of a grain (2.02 mg.) placed most gently on the tip, thrice caused distinct curvature. A bent bit of thin platina wire weighing only fiftieth of a grain (1.23 mg.) twice produced the same effect; but this latter weight, when left suspended, did not suffice to cause a permanent curvature. These trials were made under a bell-glass, so that the loops of thread and wire were not agitated by the wind. The movement after a touch is very rapid: I took hold of the lower part of several tendrils, and then touched their concave tips with a thin twig and watched them carefully through a lens; the tips evidently began to bend after the following intervals--31, 25, 32, 31, 28, 39, 31, and 30 seconds; so that the movement was generally perceptible in half a minute after a touch; but on one occasion it was distinctly visible in 25 seconds. One of the tendrils which thus became bent in 31 seconds, had been touched two hours previously and had coiled into a helix; so that in this interval it had straightened itself and had perfectly recovered its irritability.

To ascertain how often the same tendril would become curved when touched, I kept a plant in my study, which from being cooler than the hot-house was not very favourable for the experiment. The extremity was gently rubbed four or five times with a thin stick, and this was done as often as it was observed to have become nearly straight again after having been in action; and in the course of 54 hrs. it answered to the stimulus 21 times, becoming each time hooked or spiral. On the last occasion, however, the movement was very slight, and soon afterwards permanent spiral contraction commenced. No trials were made during the night, so that the tendril would perhaps have answered a greater number of times to the stimulus; though, on the other hand, from having no rest it might have become exhausted from so many quickly repeated efforts.

I repeated the experiment made on the Echinocystis, and placed several plants of this Passiflora so close together, that their tendrils were repeatedly dragged over each other; but no curvature ensued. I likewise repeatedly flirted small drops of water from a brush on many tendrils, and syringed others so violently that the whole tendril was dashed about, but they never became curved. The impact from the drops of water was felt far more distinctly on my hand than that from the loops of thread (weighing one thirty-second of a grain) when allowed to fall on it from a height, and these loops, which caused the tendrils to become curved, had been placed most gently on them. Hence it is clear, that the tendrils either have become habituated to the touch of other tendrils and drops of rain, or that they were from the first rendered sensitive only to prolonged though excessively slight pressure of solid objects, with the exclusion of that from other tendrils. To show the difference in the kind of sensitiveness in different plants and likewise to show the force of the syringe used, I may add that the lightest jet from it instantly caused the leaves of a Mimosa to close; whereas the loop of thread weighing one thirty-second of a grain, when rolled into a ball and placed gently on the glands at the bases of the leaflets of the Mimosa, caused no action.

Passiflora punctata.--The internodes do not move, but the tendrils revolve regularly. A half-grown and very sensitive tendril made three revolutions, opposed to the course of the sun, in 3 hrs. 5 m., 2 hrs. 40 m. and 2 hrs. 50 m.; perhaps it might have travelled more quickly when nearly full-grown. A plant was placed in front of a window, and, as with twining stems, the light accelerated the movement of the tendril in one direction and retarded it in the other; the semicircle towards the light being performed in one instance in 15 m. less time and in a second instance in 20 m. less time than that required by the semicircle towards the dark end of the room.

The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants Page 52

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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