We have seen that leaves immersed for some hours in dense solutions of sugar, gum, and starch, have the contents of their cells greatly aggregated, and are rendered more or less flaccid, with the tentacles irregularly contorted. These leaves, after being left for four days in distilled water, became less flaccid, with their tentacles partially re-expanded, and the aggregated masses of protoplasm were partially redissolved. A leaf with its tentacles closely clasped over a fly, and with the contents of the cells strongly aggregated, was placed in a little sherry wine; after 2 hrs. several of the tentacles had re-expanded, and the others could by a mere touch be pushed back into their properly expanded positions, and now all traces of aggregation had disappeared, the cells being filled with perfectly homogeneous pink fluid. The redissolution in these cases may, I presume, be attributed to endosmose.]

On the Proximate Causes of the Process of Aggregation.

As most of the stimulants which cause the inflection of the tentacles likewise induce aggregation in the contents of their cells, this latter process might be thought to be the direct result of inflection; but this is not the case. If leaves are placed in rather strong solutions of carbonate of ammonia, for instance of three or four, and even sometimes of only two grains to the ounce of water (i.e. one part to 109, or 146, or [page 55] 218, of water), the tentacles are paralysed, and do not become inflected, yet they soon exhibit strongly marked aggregation. Moreover, the short central tentacles of a leaf which has been immersed in a weak solution of any salt of ammonia, or in any nitrogenous organic fluid, do not become in the least inflected; nevertheless they exhibit all the phenomena of aggregation. On the other hand, several acids cause strongly pronounced inflection, but no aggregation.

It is an important fact that when an organic or inorganic object is placed on the glands of the disc, and the exterior tentacles are thus caused to bend inwards, not only is the secretion from the glands of the latter increased in quantity and rendered acid, but the contents of the cells of their pedicels become aggregated. The process always commences in the glands, although these have not as yet touched any object. Some force or influence must, therefore, be transmitted from the central glands to the exterior tentacles, first to near their bases causing this part to bend, and next to the glands causing them to secrete more copiously. After a short time the glands, thus indirectly excited, transmit or reflect some influence down their own pedicels, inducing aggregation in cell beneath cell to their bases.

It seems at first sight a probable view that aggregation is due to the glands being excited to secrete more copiously, so that sufficient fluid is not left in their cells, and in the cells of the pedicels, to hold the protoplasm in solution. In favour of this view is the fact that aggregation follows the inflection of the tentacles, and during the movement the glands generally, or, as I believe, always, secrete more copiously than they did before. Again, during the re-expansion [page 56] of the tentacles, the glands secrete less freely, or quite cease to secrete, and the aggregated masses of protoplasm are then redissolved. Moreover, when leaves are immersed in dense vegetable solutions, or in glycerine, the fluid within the gland-cells passes outwards, and there is aggregation; and when the leaves are afterwards immersed in water, or in an innocuous fluid of less specific gravity than water, the protoplasm is redissolved, and this, no doubt, is due to endosmose.

Opposed to this view, that aggregation is caused by the outward passage of fluid from the cells, are the following facts. There seems no close relation between the degree of increased secretion and that of aggregation. Thus a particle of sugar added to the secretion round a gland causes a much greater increase of secretion, and much less aggregation, than does a particle of carbonate of ammonia given in the same manner.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book