The position which young leaves and other organs ultimately assume is acquired by the circumnutating movement being increased in some one direction. the leaves of various plants are said to sleep at night, and it will be seen that their blades then assume a vertical position through modified circumnutation, in order to protect their upper surfaces from being chilled through radiation. The movements of various organs to the light, which are so general throughout the vegetable kingdom, and occasionally from the light, or transversely with respect to it, are all modified

* See Mr. Vines' excellent discussion ('Arbeiten des Bot. Instituts in Würzburg,' B. II. pp. 142, 143, 1878) on this intricate subject. Hofmeister's observations ('Jahreschrifte des Vereins für Vaterl. Naturkunde in Würtemberg,' 1874, p. 211) on the curious movements of Spirogyra, a plant consisting of a single row of cells, are valuable in relation to this subject.

[page 4] forms of circumnutation; as again are the equally prevalent movements of stems, etc., towards the zenith, and of roots towards the centre of the earth. In accordance with these conclusions, a considerable difficulty in the way of evolution is in part removed, for it might have been asked, how did all these diversified movements for the most different purposes first arise? As the case stands, we know that there is always movement in progress, and its amplitude, or direction, or both, have only to be modified for the good of the plant in relation with internal or external stimuli.

Besides describing the several modified forms of circumnutation, some other subjects will be discussed. The two which have interested us most are, firstly, the fact that with some seedling plants the uppermost part alone is sensitive to light, and transmits an influence to the lower part, causing it to bend. If therefore the upper part be wholly protected from light, the lower part may be exposed for hours to it, and yet does not become in the least bent, although this would have occurred quickly if the upper part had been excited by light. Secondly, with the radicles of seedlings, the tip is sensitive to various stimuli, especially to very slight pressure, and when thus excited, transmits an influence to the upper part, causing it to bend from the pressed side. On the other hand, if the tip is subjected to the vapour of water proceeding from one side, the upper part of the radicle bends towards this side. Again it is the tip, as stated by Ciesielski, though denied by others, which is sensitive to the attraction of gravity, and by transmission causes the adjoining parts of the radicle to bend towards the centre of the earth. These several cases of the effects of contact, other irritants, vapour, light, and the [page 5] attraction of gravity being transmitted from the excited part for some little distance along the organ in question, have an important bearing on the theory of all such movements.

[Terminology.--A brief explanation of some terms which will be used, must here be given. With seedlings, the stem which supports the cotyledons (i.e. the organs which represent the first leaves) has been called by many botanists the hypocotyledonous stem, but for brevity sake we will speak of it merely as the hypocotyl: the stem immediately above the cotyledons will be called the epicotyl or plumule. The radicle can be distinguished from the hypocotyl only by the presence of root-hairs and the nature of its covering. The meaning of the word circumnutation has already been explained. Authors speak of positive and negative heliotropism,*--that is, the bending of an organ to or from the light; but it is much more convenient to confine the word heliotropism to bending towards the light, and to designate as apheliotropism bending from the light. There is another reason for this change, for writers, as we have observed, occasionally drop the adjectives positive and negative, and thus introduce confusion into their discussions. Diaheliotropism may express a position more or less transverse to the light and induced by it.

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 05

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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