CUCURBITACEAE.--Homologous nature of the tendrils--Echinocystis lobata, remarkable movements of the tendrils to avoid seizing the terminal shoot--Tendrils not excited by contact with another tendril or by drops of water--Undulatory movement of the extremity of the tendril--Hanburya, adherent discs--VITACAE--Gradation between the flower-peduncles and tendrils of the vine--Tendrils of the Virginian Creeper turn from the light, and, after contact, develop adhesive discs--SAPINDACEAE--PASSIFLORACEAE--Passiflora gracilis--Rapid revolving movement and sensitiveness of the tendrils--Not sensitive to the contact of other tendrils or of drops of water--Spiral contraction of tendrils--Summary on the nature and action of tendrils.

CUCURBITACEAE.--The tendrils in this family have been ranked by competent judges as modified leaves, stipules, or branches; or as partly a leaf and partly a branch. De Candolle believes that the tendrils differ in their homological nature in two of the tribes. {29} From facts recently adduced, Mr. Berkeley thinks that Payer's view is the most probable, namely, that the tendril is "a separate portion of the leaf itself;" but much may be said in favour of the belief that it is a modified flower-peduncle. {30}

Echinocystis lobata.--Numerous observations were made on this plant (raised from seed sent me by Prof. Asa Gray), for the spontaneous revolving movements of the internodes and tendrils were first observed by me in this case, and greatly perplexed me. My observations may now be much condensed. I observed thirty-five revolutions of the internodes and tendrils; the slowest rate was 2 hrs. and the average rate, with no great fluctuations, 1 hr. 40 m. Sometimes I tied the internodes, so that the tendrils alone moved; at other times I cut off the tendrils whilst very young, so that the internodes revolved by themselves; but the rate was not thus affected. The course generally pursued was with the sun, but often in an opposite direction. Sometimes the movement during a short time would either stop or be reversed; and this apparently was due to interference from the light, as, for instance, when I placed a plant close to a window. In one instance, an old tendril, which had nearly ceased revolving, moved in one direction, whilst a young tendril above moved in an opposite course. The two uppermost internodes alone revolve; and as soon as the lower one grows old, only its upper part continues to move. The ellipses or circles swept by the summits of the internodes are about three inches in diameter; whilst those swept by the tips of the tendrils, are from 15 to 16 inches in diameter. During the revolving movement, the internodes become successively curved to all points of the compass; in one part of their course they are often inclined, together with the tendrils, at about 45 degrees to the horizon, and in another part stand vertically up. There was something in the appearance of the revolving internodes which continually gave the false impression that their movement was due to the weight of the long and spontaneously revolving tendril; but, on cutting off the latter with sharp scissors, the top of the shoot rose only a little, and went on revolving. This false appearance is apparently due to the internodes and tendrils all curving and moving harmoniously together.

A revolving tendril, though inclined during the greater part of its course at an angle of about 45 degrees (in one case of only 37 degrees) above the horizon, stiffened and straightened itself from tip to base in a certain part of its course, thus becoming nearly or quite vertical. I witnessed this repeatedly; and it occurred both when the supporting internodes were free and when they were tied up; but was perhaps most conspicuous in the latter case, or when the whole shoot happened to be much inclined. The tendril forms a very acute angle with the projecting extremity of the stem or shoot; and the stiffening always occurred as the tendril approached, and had to pass over the shoot in its circular course. If it had not possessed and exercised this curious power, it would infallibly have struck against the extremity of the shoot and been arrested. As soon as the tendril with its three branches begins to stiffen itself in this manner and to rise from an inclined into a vertical position, the revolving motion becomes more rapid; and as soon as the tendril has succeeded in passing over the extremity of the shoot or point of difficulty, its motion, coinciding with that from its weight, often causes it to fall into its previously inclined position so quickly, that the apex could be seen travelling like the minute hand of a gigantic clock.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book