The leaves are of large size. Each bears three pairs of lateral leaflets and a terminal one, all supported on rather long sub- petioles. The main petiole bends a little angularly downwards at each point where a pair of leaflets arises (see fig. 2), and the petiole of the terminal leaflet is bent downwards at right angles; hence the whole petiole, with its rectangularly bent extremity, acts as a hook. This hook, the lateral petioles being directed a little upwards; forms an excellent grappling apparatus, by which the leaves readily become entangled with surrounding objects. If they catch nothing, the whole petiole ultimately grows straight. The main petiole, the sub-petioles, and the three branches into which each basi-lateral sub-petiole is generally subdivided, are all sensitive. The basal portion of the main petiole, between the stem and the first pair of leaflets, is less sensitive than the remainder; it will, however, clasp a stick with which it is left in contact. The inferior surface of the rectangularly bent terminal portion (carrying the terminal leaflet), which forms the inner side of the end of the hook, is the most sensitive part; and this portion is manifestly best adapted to catch a distant support. To show the difference in sensibility, I gently placed loops of string of the same weight (in one instance weighing only 0.82 of a grain or 53.14 mg.) on the several lateral sub-petioles and on the terminal one; in a few hours the latter was bent, but after 24 hrs. no effect was produced on the other sub-petioles. Again, a terminal sub-petiole placed in contact with a thin stick became sensibly curved in 45 m., and in 1 hr. 10m. moved through ninety degrees; whilst a lateral sub-petiole did not become sensibly curved until 3 hrs. 30 m. had elapsed. In all cases, if the sticks are taken away, the petioles continue to move during many hours afterwards; so they do after a slight rubbing; but they become straight again, after about a day's interval, that is if the flexure has not been very great or long continued.

The graduated difference in the extension of the sensitiveness in the petioles of the above-described species deserves notice. In C. montana it is confined to the main petiole, and has not spread to the sub-petioles of the three leaflets; so it is with young plants of C. calycina, but in older plants it spreads to the three sub-petioles. In C. viticella the sensitiveness has spread to the petioles of the seven leaflets, and to the subdivisions of the basi-lateral sub- petioles. But in this latter species it has diminished in the basal part of the main petiole, in which alone it resided in C. montana; whilst it has increased in the abruptly bent terminal portion.

Clematis flammula.--The rather thick, straight, and stiff shoots, whilst growing vigorously in the spring, make small oval revolutions, following the sun in their course. Four were made at an average rate of 3 hrs. 45 m. The longer axis of the oval, described by the extreme tip, was directed at right angles to the line joining the opposite leaves; its length was in one case only 1.375, and in another case 1.75 inch; so that the young leaves were moved a very short distance. The shoots of the same plant observed in midsummer, when growing not so quickly, did not revolve at all. I cut down another plant in the early summer, so that by August 1st it had formed new and moderately vigorous shoots; these, when observed under a bell-glass, were on some days quite stationary, and on other days moved to and fro only about the eighth of an inch. Consequently the revolving power is much enfeebled in this species, and under unfavourable circumstances is completely lost. The shoot must depend for coming into contact with surrounding objects on the probable, though not ascertained spontaneous movement of the leaves, on rapid growth, and on movement from the wind. Hence, perhaps, it is that the petioles have acquired a high degree of sensitiveness as a compensation for the little power of movement in the shoots.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book