First for the non-nitrogenous fluids. As a preliminary trial, drops of distilled water were placed on between thirty and forty leaves, and no effect whatever was produced; nevertheless, in some other and rare cases, a few tentacles became for a short time inflected; but this may have been caused by the glands having been accidentally touched in getting the leaves into a proper position. That water should produce no effect might have been anticipated, as otherwise the leaves would have been excited into movement by every shower of rain.

[Gum arabic.--Solutions of four degrees of strength were made; one of six grains to the ounce of water (one part to 73); a second rather stronger, yet very thin; a third moderately thick, and a fourth so thick that it would only just drop from a pointed instrument. These were tried on fourteen leaves; the drops being left on the discs from 24 hrs. to 44 hrs.; generally about [page 78] 30 hrs. Inflection was never thus caused. It is necessary to try pure gum arabic, for a friend tried a solution bought ready prepared, and this caused the tentacles to bend; but he afterwards ascertained that it contained much animal matter, probably glue.

Sugar.--Drops of a solution of white sugar of three strengths (the weakest containing one part of sugar to 73 of water) were left on fourteen leaves from 32 hrs. to 48 hrs.; but no effect was produced.

Starch.--A mixture about as thick as cream was dropped on six leaves and left on them for 30 hrs., no effect being produced. I am surprised at this fact, as I believe that the starch of commerce generally contains a trace of gluten, and this nitrogenous substance causes inflection, as we shall see in the next chapter.

Alcohol, Diluted.--One part of alcohol was added to seven of water, and the usual drops were placed on the discs of three leaves. No inflection ensued in the course of 48 hrs. To ascertain whether these leaves had been at all injured, bits of meat were placed on them, and after 24 hrs. they were closely inflected. I also put drops of sherry-wine on three other leaves; no inflection was caused, though two of them seemed somewhat injured. We shall hereafter see that cut off leaves immersed in diluted alcohol of the above strength do not become inflected.

Olive Oil.--drops were placed on the discs of eleven leaves, and no effect was produced in from 24 hrs. to 48 hrs. Four of these leaves were then tested by bits of meat on their discs, and three of them were found after 24 hrs. with all their tentacles and blades closely inflected, whilst the fourth had only a few tentacles inflected. It will, however, be shown in a future place, that cut off leaves immersed in olive oil are powerfully affected.

Infusion and Decoction of Tea.--Drops of a strong infusion and decoction, as well as of a rather weak decoction, of tea were placed on ten leaves, none of which became inflected. I afterwards tested three of them by adding bits of meat to the drops which still remained on their discs, and when I examined them after 24 hrs. they were closely inflected. The chemical principle of tea, namely theine, was subsequently tried and produced no effect. The albuminous matter which the leaves must originally have contained, no doubt, had been rendered insoluble by their having been completely dried.]

We thus see that, excluding the experiments with water, sixty-one leaves were tried with drops of the [page 79] above-named non-nitrogenous fluids; and the tentacles were not in a single case inflected.

[With respect to nitrogenous fluids, the first which came to hand were tried. The experiments were made at the same time and in exactly the same manner as the foregoing. As it was immediately evident that these fluids produced a great effect, I neglected in most cases to record how soon the tentacles became inflected. But this always occurred in less than 24 hrs.; whilst the drops of non-nitrogenous fluids which produced no effect were observed in every case during a considerably longer period.

Milk.--Drops were placed on sixteen leaves, and the tentacles of all, as well as the blades of several, soon became greatly inflected.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book