Fig. 52. Zea mays: track left on inclined smoked glass-plate by tip of radicle in growing downwards.

Avena sativa (Gramineae).--A cotyledon, 1 inch in height, was placed in front of a north-east window, and the movement of the apex was traced on a horizontal glass during two days. It moved towards the light in a slightly zigzag line from 9 to 11.30 A.M. on October 15th; it then moved a little backwards and zigzagged much until 5 P.M., after which hour, and curing the night, it continued to move towards the window. On the following morning the same movement was continued in a nearly straight line until 12.40 P.M., when the sky remained until 2.35 extraordinarily dark from thunder-clouds. During this interval of 1 h. 55 m., whilst the light was obscure, it was interesting to observe how circumnutation overcame heliotropism, for the apex, instead of continuing to move towards the window in a slightly zigzag line, reversed its course four times, making two small narrow ellipses. A diagram of this case will be given in the chapter on Heliotropism. [page 66]

A filament was next fixed to a cotyledon only 1/4 of an inch in height, which was illuminated exclusively from above, and as it was kept in a warm greenhouse, it grew rapidly; and now there could be no doubt about its circumnutation, for it described a figure of 8 as well as two small ellipses in 5 hours.

Nephrodium molle (Filices).--A seedling fern of this species came up by chance in a flowerpot near its parent. The frond, as yet only slightly lobed, was only .16 of an inch in length and .2 in breadth, and was supported on a rachis as fine as a hair and .23 of an inch in height. A very thin glass filament, which projected for a length of .36 of an inch, was fixed to the end of the frond. The movement was so highly magnified that the figure (Fig. 53) cannot be fully trusted; but the frond was constantly moving in a complex manner, and the bead greatly changed its course eighteen times in the 12 hours of observation. Within half an hour it often returned in a line almost parallel to its former course. The greatest amount of movement occurred between 4 and 6 P.M. The circumnutation of this plant is interesting, because the species in the genus Lygodium are well known to circumnutate conspicuously and to twine round any neighbouring object.

Fig. 53. Nephrodium molle: circumnutation of very young frond, traced in darkness on horizontal glass, from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. Oct. 30th. Movement of bead magnified 48 times.

Selaginella Kraussii (?) (Lycopodiaceae).--A very young plant, only .4 of an inch in height, had sprung up in a pot in the hot-house. An extremely fine glass filament was fixed to the end of the frond-like stem, and the movement of the bead traced on a horizontal glass. It changed its course several times, as shown in Fig. 54, whilst observed during 13 h. 15 m., and returned at night to a point not far distant from that whence it had started in the morning. There can be no doubt that this little plant circumnutated.

Fig. 54. Selaginella Kraussii (?): circumnutation of young plant, kept in darkness, traced from 8.45 A.M. to 10 P.M. Oct. 31st. [page 67]



Generality of the circumnutating movement--Radicles, their circumnutation of service--Manner in which they penetrate the ground--Manner in which hypocotyls and other organs break through the ground by being arched-- Singular manner of germination in Megarrhiza, etc.--Abortion of cotyledons- -Circumnutation of hypocotyls and epicotyls whilst still buried and arched- -Their power of straightening themselves--Bursting of the seed-coats-- Inherited effect of the arching process in hypogean hypocotyls-- Circumnutation of hypocotyls and epicotyls when erect--Circumnutation of cotyledons--Pulvini or joints of cotyledons, duration of their activity, rudimentary in Oxalis corniculata, their development--Sensitiveness of cotyledons to light and consequent disturbance of their periodic movements- -Sensitiveness of cotyledons to contact.

Charles Darwin

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