But their sensitiveness to geotropism lasts for only 2 or 3 days; and the terminal part alone, for a length of between .2 and .4 inch, is thus sensitive. Although the petioles of our specimens did not penetrate the ground to a greater depth than about inch, yet they continued for some time to grow rapidly, and finally attained the great length of about 3 inches. The upper part is apogeotropic, and therefore grows vertically upwards, excepting a short portion close to the blades, which at an early period bends downwards and becomes arched, and thus breaks through the ground. Afterwards this portion straightens itself, and the cotyledons then free themselves from the seed-coats. Thus we here have in different parts of the same organ widely different kinds of movement and of sensitiveness; for the basal part is geotropic, the upper part apogeotropic, and a portion near the blades temporarily and spontaneously arches itself. The plumule is not developed for some little time; and as it rises between the bases of the parallel and closely approximate petioles of the cotyledons, which in breaking through the ground have formed an almost open passage, it does not require to be arched and is consequently always straight. Whether the plumule remains buried and dormant for a time in its native country, and is thus protected from the cold of winter, we do not know. The radicle, like that of the Megarrhiza, grows into a tuber-like mass, which ultimately attains a great size. So it is with Ipomoea pandurata, the germination of which, as Asa Gray informs us, resembles that of I. leptophylla.

The following case is interesting in connection with [page 85] the root-like nature of the petioles. The radicle of a seedling was cut off, as it was completely decayed, and the two now separated cotyledons were planted. They emitted roots from their bases, and continued green and healthy for two months. The blades of both then withered, and on removing the earth the bases of the petioles (instead of the radicle) were found enlarged into little tubers. Whether these would have had the power of producing two independent plants in the following summer, we do not know.

In Quercus virens, according to Dr. Engelmann,* both the cotyledons and their petioles are confluent. The latter grow to a length "of an inch or even more;" and, if we understand rightly, penetrate the ground, so that they must be geotropic. The nutriment within the cotyledons is then quickly transferred to the hypocotyl or radicle, which thus becomes developed into a fusiform tuber. The fact of tubers being formed by the foregoing three widely distinct plants, makes us believe that their protection from animals at an early age and whilst tender, is one at least of the advantages gained by the remarkable elongation of the petioles of the cotyledons, together with their power of penetrating the ground like roots under the guidance of geotropism.

The following cases may be here given, as they bear on our present subject, though not relating to seedlings. The flower-stem of the parasitic Lathraea squamaria, which is destitute of true leaves, breaks through the ground as an arch;** so does the flower-

* 'Transact. St. Louis Acad. Science,' vol. iv. p. 190.

** The passage of the flower-stem of the Lathraea through the ground cannot fail to be greatly facilitated by the extraordinary quantity of water secreted at this period of the year by the subter- [[page 86]] ranean scale-like leaves; not that there is any reason to suppose that the secretion is a special adaptation for this purpose: it probably follows from the great quantity of sap absorbed in the early spring by the parasitic roots. After a long period without any rain, the earth had become light-coloured and very dry, but it was dark-coloured and damp, even in parts quite wet, for a distance of at least six inches all round each flower-stem. The water is secreted by glands (described by Cohn, 'Bericht. Bot. Sect. der Schlesischen Gesell.,' 1876, p. 113) which line the longitudinal channels running through each scale-like leaf.

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 42

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Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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