in water, then allowed to germinate in very damp air, afterwards placed over the hole and almost surrounded by damp sand in a closed box.

Fig. 55. Outline of piece of stick (reduced to one-half natural size) with a hole through which the radicle of a bean grew. Thickness of stick at narrow end .08 inch, at broad end .16; depth of hole .1 inch. We succeeded better in ascertaining the force exerted transversely by these radicles. Two were so placed as to penetrate small holes made in little sticks, one of which was cut into the shape here exactly copied (Fig. 55). The short end of the stick beyond the hole was purposely split, but not the opposite [page 75] end. As the wood was highly elastic, the split or fissure closed immediately after being made. After six days the stick and bean were dug out of the damp sand, and the radicle was found to be much enlarged above and beneath the hole. The fissure which was at first quite closed, was now open to a width of 4 mm.; as soon as the radicle was extracted, it immediately closed to a width of 2 mm. The stick was then suspended horizontally by a fine wire passing through the hole lately filled by the radicle, and a little saucer was suspended beneath to receive the weights; and it required 8 lbs. 8 ozs. to open the fissure to the width of 4 mm.-- that is, the width before the root was extracted. But the part of the radicle (only .1 of an inch in length) which was embedded in the hole, probably exerted a greater transverse strain even than 8 lbs. 8 ozs., for it had split the solid wood for a length of rather more than a quarter of an inch (exactly .275 inch), and this fissure is shown in Fig. 55. A second stick was tried in the same manner with almost exactly the same result.

Fig. 56. Wooden pincers, kept closed by a spiral brass spring, with a hole (.14 inch in diameter and .6 inch in depth) bored through the narrow closed part, through which a radicle of a bean was allowed to grow. Temp. 50o - 60o F.

We then followed a better plan. Holes were bored near the narrow end of two wooden clips or pincers (Fig. 56), kept closed by brass spiral springs. Two radicles in damp sand were allowed to grow through these holes. The [page 76] pincers rested on glass-plates to lessen the friction from the sand. The holes were a little larger (viz..14 inch) and considerably deeper (viz..6 inch) than in the trials with the sticks; so that a greater length of a rather thicker radicle exerted a transverse strain. After 13 days they were taken up. The distance of two dots (see the figure) on the longer ends of the pincers was now carefully measured; the radicles were then extracted from the holes, and the pincers of course closed. They were then suspended horizontally in the same manner as were the bits of sticks, and a weight of 1500 grams (or 3 pounds 4 ounces) was necessary with one of the pincers to open them to the same extent as had been effected by the transverse growth of the radicle. As soon as this radicle had slightly opened the pincers, it had grown into a flattened form and had escaped a little beyond the hole; its diameter in one direction being 4.2 mm., and at rightangles 3.5 mm. If this escape and flattening could have been prevented, the radicle would probably have exerted a greater strain than the 3 pounds 4 ounces. With the other pincers the radicle escaped still further out of the hole; and the weight required to open them to the same extent as had been effected by the radicle, was only 600 grams.

With these facts before us, there seems little difficulty in understanding how a radicle penetrates the ground. The apex is pointed and is protected by the root-cap; the terminal growing part is rigid, and increases in length with a force equal, as far as our observations can be trusted, to the pressure of at least a quarter of a pound, probably with a much greater force when prevented from bending to any side by the surrounding earth. Whilst thus increasing in length it increases in thickness, pushing away the damp [page 77] earth on all sides, with a force of above 8 pounds in one case, of 3 pounds in another case.

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 38

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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