The foregoing observations apply to the leg of the arch next to the cotyledons, but [page 41] the other leg adjoining the radicle likewise circumnutated at an equally early age.

The movement of the same hypocotyl after it had become straight and vertical, but with the cotyledons only partially expanded, is shown in Fig. 29. The course pursued during 12 h. apparently represents four and a half ellipses or ovals, with the longer axis of the first at nearly right angles to that of the others. The longer axes of all were oblique to a line joining the opposite cotyledons. The actual extreme distance from side to side over which the summit of the tall hypocotyl passed in the course of 12 h. was .28 of an inch. The original figure was traced on a large scale, and from the obliquity of the line of view the outer parts of the diagram are much exaggerated.

Cotyledons.--On two occasions the movements of the cotyledons were traced on a vertical glass, and as the ascending and descending lines did not quite coincide, very narrow ellipses were formed; they therefore circumnutated. Whilst young they rise vertically up at night, but their tips always remain reflexed; on the following morning they sink down again. With a seedling kept in complete darkness they moved in the same manner, for they sank from 8.45 A.M. to 4.30 P.M.; they then began to rise and remained close together until 10 P.M., when they were last observed. At 7 A.M. on the following morning they were as much expanded as at any hour on the previous day. The cotyledons of another young seedling, exposed to the light, were fully open for the first time on a certain day, but were found completely closed at 7 A.M. on the following morning. They soon began to expand again, and continued doing so till about 5 P.M.; they then began to rise, and by 10.30 P.M. stood vertically and were almost closed. At 7 A.M. on the third morning they were nearly vertical, and again expanded during the day; on the fourth morning they were not closed, yet they opened a little in the course of the day and rose a little on the following night. By this time a minute true leaf had become developed. Another seedling, still older, bearing a well-developed leaf, had a sharp rigid filament affixed to one of its cotyledons (85 mm. in length), which recorded its own movements on a revolving drum with smoked paper. The observations were made in the hot-house, where the plant had lived, so that there was no change in temperature or light. The record commenced at 11 A.M. on February 18th; and from this hour till 3 P.M. the [page 42] cotyledon fell; it then rose rapidly till 9 P.M., then very gradually till 3 A.M. February 19th, after which hour it sank gradually till 4.30 P.M.; but the downward movement was interrupted by one slight rise or oscillation about 1.30 P.M. After 4.30 P.M. (19th) the cotyledon rose till 1 A.M. (in the night of February 20th) and then sank very gradually till 9.30 A.M., when our observations ceased. The amount of movement was greater on the 18th than on the 19th or on the morning of the 20th.

Cucurbita aurantia.--An arched hypocotyl was found buried a little beneath the surface of the soil; and in order to prevent it straightening itself quickly, when relieved from the surrounding pressure of the soil, the two legs of the arch were tied together. The seed was then lightly covered with loose damp earth. A filament with a bead at the end was affixed to the basal leg, the movements of which were observed during two days in the usual manner. On the first day the arch moved in a zigzag line towards the side of the basal leg. On the next day, by which time the dependent cotyledons had been dragged above the surface of the soil, the tied arch changed its course greatly nine times in the course of 14 h. It swept a large, extremely irregular, circular figure, returning at night to nearly the same spot whence it had started early in the morning. The line was so strongly zigzag that it apparently represented five ellipses, with their longer axes pointing in various directions.

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 22

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book