It may be added, that the crown of the arch does not grow, or grows very slowly, for it does not increase much in breadth, whilst the arch itself increases greatly in height.

The circumnutating movements of arched hypocotyls and epicotyls can hardly fail to aid them in breaking through the ground, if this be damp and soft; though no doubt their emergence depends mainly on the force exerted by their longitudinal growth. Although the arch circumnutates only to a slight extent and probably with little force, yet it is able to move the soil near the surface, though it may not be able to do so at a moderate depth. A pot with seeds of Solanum palinacanthum, the tall arched hypocotyls of which had emerged and were growing rather slowly, was covered with fine argillaceous sand kept damp, and this at first closely surrounded the bases of the arches; but soon a narrow open crack was formed round each of them, which could be accounted for only by their having pushed away the sand on all sides; for no such cracks surrounded some little sticks and pins which had been driven into the sand. It has already been stated that the cotyledons of Phalaris and Avena, the plumules of Asparagus and the hypocotyls of Brassica, were likewise able to displace the same kind of sand, either whilst simply circumnutating or whilst bending towards a lateral light.

As long as an arched hypocotyl or epicotyl remains buried beneath the ground, the two legs cannot separate from one another, except to a slight extent from the yielding of the soil; but as soon as the arch rises above the ground, or at an earlier period if [page 101] the pressure of the surrounding earth be artificially removed, the arch immediately begins to straighten itself. This no doubt is due to growth along the whole inner surface of both legs of the arch; such growth being checked or prevented, as long as the two legs of the arch are firmly pressed together. When the earth is removed all round an arch and the two legs are tied together at their bases, the growth on the under side of the crown causes it after a time to become much flatter and broader than naturally occurs. The straightening process consists of a modified form of circumnutation, for the lines described during this process (as with the hypocotyl of Brassica, and the epicotyls of Vicia and Corylus) were often plainly zigzag and sometimes looped. After hypocotyls or epicotyls have emerged from the ground, they quickly become perfectly straight. No trace is left of their former abrupt curvature, excepting in the case of Allium cepa, in which the cotyledon rarely becomes quite straight, owing to the protuberance developed on the crown of the arch.

The increased growth along the inner surface of the arch which renders it straight, apparently begins in the basal leg or that which is united to the radicle; for this leg, as we often observed, is first bowed backwards from the other leg. This movement facilitates the withdrawal of the tip of the epicotyl or of the cotyledons, as the case may be, from within the seed-coats and from the ground. But the cotyledons often emerge from the ground still tightly enclosed within the seed-coats, which apparently serve to protect them. The seed-coats are afterwards ruptured and cast off by the swelling of the closely conjoined cotyledons, and not by any movement or their separation from one another.

Nevertheless, in some few cases, especially with the [page 102] Cucurbitaceae, the seed-coats are ruptured by a curious contrivance, described by M. Flahault.* A heel or peg is developed on one side of the summit of the radicle or base of the hypocotyl; and this holds down the lower half of the seed-coats (the radicle being fixed into the ground) whilst the continued growth of the arched hypocotyl forced upwards the upper half, and tears asunder the seed-coats at one end, and the cotyledons are then easily withdrawn.

Fig. 62. Cucurbita ovifera: germinating seed, showing the heel or peg projecting on one side from summit of radic

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 49

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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