Our seeds were subjected to a high temperature, and in the course of three or four days the petioles penetrated the soil perpendicularly to a depth of from 2 to 2 inches; and not until then did the true radicle begin to grow. In one specimen which was closely observed, the petioles in 7 days after their first protrusion attained a length of 2 inches, and the radicle by this time had also become well developed. The plumule, still enclosed within the tube, was now

* 'American Journal of Science,' vol. xiv. 1877, p. 21. [page 82]

.3 inch in length, and was quite straight; but from having increased in thickness it had just begun to split open the lower part of the petioles on one side, along the line of their confluence. By the following morning the upper part of the plumule had arched itself into a right angle, and the convex side or elbow had thus been forced out through the slit. Here then the arching of the plumule plays the same part as in the case of the petioles of the Delphinium. As the plumule continued to grow, the tip became more arched, and in the course of six days it emerged through the 2 inches of superincumbent soil, still retaining its arched form. After reaching the surface it straightened itself in the usual manner. In the accompanying figure (Fig. 58, A) we have a sketch of a seedling in this advanced state of development; the surface of the ground being represented by the line G...........G.

Fig. 58, A. Megarrhiza Californica: sketch of seedling, copied from Asa Gray, reduced to one-half scale: c, cotyledons within seed-coats; p, the two confluent petioles; h and r, hypocotyl and radicle; p1, plumule; G..........G, surface of soil.

The germination of the seeds in their native Californian home proceeds in a rather different manner, as we infer from an interesting letter from Mr. Rattan, sent to us by Prof. Asa Gray. The petioles protrude from the seeds soon after the autumnal rains, and penetrate the ground, generally in a vertical direction, to a depth of from 4 to even 6 inches. they were found in this state by Mr. Rattan during the Christmas vacation, with the plu- [page 83] mules still enclosed within the tubes; and he remarks that if the plumules had been at once developed and had reached the surface (as occurred with our seeds which were exposed to a high temperature), they would surely have been killed by the frost. As it is, they lie dormant at some depth beneath the surface, and are thus protected from the cold; and the root-hairs on the petioles would supply them with sufficient moisture. We shall hereafter see that many seedlings are protected from frost, but by a widely different process, namely, by being drawn beneath the surface by the contraction of their radicles. We may, however, believe that the extraordinary manner of germination of Megarrhiza has another and secondary advantage. The radicle begins in a few weeks to enlarge into a little tuber, which then abounds with starch and is only slightly bitter. It would therefore be very liable to be devoured by animals, were it not protected by being buried whilst young and tender, at a depth of some inches beneath the surface. Ultimately it grows to a huge size.

Ipomoea leptophylla.--In most of the species of this genus the hypocotyl is well developed, and breaks through the ground as an arch. But the seeds of the present species in germinating behave like those of Megarrhiza, excepting that the elongated petioles of the cotyledons are not confluent. After they have protruded from the seed, they are united at their lower ends with the undeveloped hypocotyl and undeveloped radicle, which together form a point only about .1 inch in length. They are at first highly geotropic, and penetrate the ground to a depth of rather above half an inch. The radicle then begins to grow. On four occasions after the petioles had grown for a short distance vertically downwards, they [page 84] were placed in a horizontal position in damp air in the dark, and in the course of 4 hours they again became curved vertically downwards, having passed through 90o in this time.

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 41

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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