In all such cases the cotyledons may be said to sleep, for they act in the same manner as do the leaves of many sleeping plants. This is a movement for a special purpose, and will therefore be considered in a future chapter devoted to this subject.

In order to gain some rude notion of the proportional number of cases in which the cotyledons of dicotyledonous plants (hypogean ones being of course excluded) changed their position in a conspicuous manner at night, one or more species in several genera were cursorily observed, besides those described in the last chapter. Altogether 153 genera, included in as many families as could be procured, were thus observed by us. The cotyledons were looked at in the middle of the day and again at night; and those were noted as sleeping which stood either vertically or at an angle of at least 60o above or beneath the horizon. Of such genera there were 26; and in 21 of them the cotyledons of some of the species rose, and in only 6 sank at night; and some of these latter cases are rather doubtful from causes to be explained in the chapter on the sleep of cotyledons. When [page 112] cotyledons which at noon were nearly horizontal, stood at night at more than 20o and less than 60o above the horizon, they were recorded as "plainly raised;" and of such genera there were 38. We did not meet with any distinct instances of cotyledons periodically sinking only a few degrees at night, although no doubt such occur. We have now accounted for 64 genera out of the 153, and there remain 89 in which the cotyledons did not change their position at night by as much as 20o--that is, in a conspicuous manner which could easily be detected by the unaided eye and by memory; but it must not be inferred from this statement that these cotyledons did not move at all, for in several cases a rise of a few degrees was recorded, when they were carefully observed. The number 89 might have been a little increased, for the cotyledons remained almost horizontal at night in some species in a few genera, for instance, Trifolium and Geranium, which are included amongst the sleepers, such genera might therefore have been added to the 89. Again, one species of Oxalis generally raised its cotyledons at night more than 20o and less than 60o above the horizon; so that this genus might have been included under two heads. But as several species in the same genus were not often observed, such double entries have been avoided.

In a future chapter it will be shown that the leaves of many plants which do not sleep, rise a few degrees in the evening and during the early part of the night; and it will be convenient to defer until then the consideration of the periodicity of the movements of cotyledons.

On the Pulvini or Joints of Cotyledons.--With several of the seedlings described in this and the last chapter, the summit of the petiole is developed into a pulvinus, [page 113] cushion, or joint (as this organ has been variously called), like that with which many leaves are provided. It consists of a mass of small cells usually of a pale colour from the absence of chlorophyll, and with its outline more or less convex, as shown in the annexed figure. In the case of Oxalis sensitiva two-thirds of the petiole, and in that of Mimosa pudica, apparently the whole of the short sub-petioles of the leaflets have been converted into pulvini. With pulvinated leaves (i.e. those provided with a pulvinus) their periodical movements depend, according to Pfeffer,* on the cells of the pulvinus alternately expanding more quickly on one side than on the other; whereas the similar movements of leaves not provided with pulvini, depend on their growth being alternately more rapid on one side than on the other.** As long as a leaf provided with a pulvinus is young and continues to grow, its movement depends on both these causes combined;*** and if the view now held by many botanists be sound, namely, that growth is always preceded by the expansion of the growing cells, then the difference between the movements induced by the aid of pulvini and


The Power of Movement in Plants Page 54

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Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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