Therefore the periodic movements of the cotyledons of 'O. corniculata' depend on two distinct but conjoint actions, namely, the expansion of the cells of the pulvinus and on the growth of the upper part of the petiole, including the base of the blade.

Lotus Jacoboeus.--The seedlings of this plant present a case parallel to that of Oxalis corniculata in some respects, and in others unique, as far as we have seen. The cotyledons during the first 4 or 5 days of their life do not exhibit any plain nocturnal movement; but afterwards they stand vertically or almost vertically up at night. There is, however, some degree of variability in this respect, apparently dependent on the season and on the degree to which they have been illuminated during [page 122] the day. With older seedlings, having cotyledons 4 mm. in length, which rise considerably at night, there is a well-developed pulvinus close to the blade, colourless, and rather narrower than the rest of the petiole, from which it is abruptly separated. It is formed of a mass of small cells of an average length of .021 mm.; whereas the cells in the lower part of the petiole are about .06 mm., and those in the blade from .034 to .04 mm. in length. The epidermic cells in the lower part of the petiole project conically, and thus differ in shape from those over the pulvinus.

Turning now to very young seedlings, the cotyledons of which do not rise at night and are only from 2 to 2 mm. in length, their petioles do not exhibit any defined zone of small cells, destitute of chlorophyll and differing in shape exteriorly from the lower ones. Nevertheless, the cells at the place where a pulvinus will afterwards be developed are smaller (being on an average .015 mm. in length) than those in the lower parts of the same petiole, which gradually become larger in proceeding downwards, the largest being .030 mm. in length. At this early age the cells of the blade are about .027 mm. in length. We thus see that the pulvinus is formed by the cells in the uppermost part of the petiole, continuing for only a short time to increase in length, then being arrested in their growth, accompanied by the loss of their chlorophyll grains; whilst the cells in the lower part of the petiole continue for a long time to increase in length, those of the epidermis becoming more conical. The singular fact of the cotyledons of this plant not sleeping at first is therefore due to the pulvinus not being developed at an early age.]

We learn from these two cases of Lotus and Oxalis, that the development of a pulvinus follows from the growth of the cells over a small defined space of the petiole being almost arrested at an early age. With Lotus Jacobaeus the cells at first increase a little in length; in Oxalis corniculata they decrease a little, owing to self-division. A mass of such small cells forming a pulvinus, might therefore be either acquired or lost without any special difficulty, by different species in the same natural genus: and we know that [page 123] with seedlings of Trifolium, Lotus, and Oxalis some of the species have a well-developed pulvinus, and others have none, or one in a rudimentary condition. As the movements caused by the alternate turgescence of the cells in the two halves of a pulvinus, must be largely determined by the extensibility and subsequent contraction of their walls, we can perhaps understand why a large number of small cells will be more efficient than a small number of large cells occupying the same space. As a pulvinus is formed by the arrestment of the growth of its cells, movements dependent on their action may be long-continued without any increase in length of the part thus provided; and such long-continued movements seem to be one chief end gained by the development of a pulvinus. Long-continued movement would be impossible in any part, without an inordinate increase in its length, if the turgescence of the cells was always followed by growth.

Disturbance of the Periodic Movements of Cotyledons by Light.--The hypocotyls and cotyledons of most seedling plants are, as is well known, extremely heliotropic; but cotyledons, besides being heliotropic, are affected paratonically (to use Sachs' expression) by light; that is, their daily periodic movements are greatly and quickly disturbed by changes in its intensity or by its absence.

The Power of Movement in Plants Page 59

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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