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CHAPTER XI.

RECAPITULATION OF THE CHIEF OBSERVATIONS ON
DROSERA ROTUNDIFOLIA.

As summaries have been given to most of the chapters, it will be sufficient here to recapitulate, as briefly as I can, the chief points. In the first chapter a preliminary sketch was given of the structure of the leaves, and of the manner in which they capture insects. This is effected by drops of extremely viscid fluid surrounding the glands and by the inward movement of the tentacles. As the plants gain most of their nutriment by this means, their roots are very poorly developed; and they often grow in places where hardly any other plant except mosses can exist. The glands have the power of absorption, besides that of secretion. They are extremely sensitive to various stimulants, namely repeated touches, the pressure of minute particles, the absorption of animal matter and of various fluids, heat, and galvanic action. A tentacle with a bit of raw meat on the gland has been seen to begin bending in 10 s., to be strongly incurved in 5 m., and to reach the centre of the leaf in Lalf an hour. The blade of the leaf often becomes so much inflected that it forms a cup, enclosing any object placed on it.

A gland, when excited, not only sends some influence down its own tentacle, causing it to bend, but likewise to the surrounding tentacles, which become incurved; so that the bending place can be acted on by an impulse received from opposite directions,

namely from the gland on the summit of the same tentacle, and from one or more glands of the neighbouring tentacles. Tentacles, when inflected, re-expand after a time, and during this process the glands secrete less copiously, or become dry. As soon as they begin to secrete again, the tentacles are ready to re-act; and this may be repeated at least three, probably many more times.

It was shown in the second chapter that animal substances placed on the discs cause much more prompt and energetic inflection than do inorganic bodies of the same size, or mere mechanical irritation; but there is a still more marked difference in the greater length of time during which the tentacles remain inflected over bodies yielding soluble and nutritious matter, than over those which do not yield such matter. Extremely minute particles of glass, cinders, hair, thread, precipitated chalk, &c., when placed on the glands of the outer tentacles, cause them to bend. A particle, unless it sinks through the secretion and actually touches the surface of the gland with some one point, does not produce any effect. A little bit of thin human hair of an inch (203 mm.) in length, and weighing only of a grain (000822 mg.), though largely supported by the dense secretion, suffices to induce movement. It is not probable that the pressure in this case could have amounted to that from the millionth of a grain. Even smaller particles cause a slight movement, as could be seen through a lens. Larger particles than those of which the measurements have been given cause no sensation when placed on the tongue, one of the most sensitive parts of the human body.

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Movement ensues if a gland is momentarily touched three or four times; but if touched only once or twice,

though with considerable force and with a hard object, the tentacle does not bend. The plant is thus saved from much useless movement, as during a high wind the glands can hardly escape being occasionally brushed by the leaves of surrounding plants. Though insensible to a single touch, they are exquisitely sensitive, as just stated, to the slightest pressure if prolonged for a few seconds; and this capacity is manifestly of service to the plant in capturing small insects. Even gnats, if they rest on the glands with their delicate feet, are quickly and securely embraced. The glands are insensible to the weight and repeated blows of drops of heavy rain, and the plants are thus likewise saved from much useless movement.

The description of the movements of the tentacles was interrupted in the third chapter for the sake of describing the process of aggregation. This process always commences in the cells of the glands, the contents of which first become cloudy; and this has been observed within 10 s. after a gland has been excited. Granules just resolvable under a very high power soon appear, sometimes within a minute, in the cells beneath the glands; and these then aggregate into minute spheres. The process afterwards travels down the tentacles, being arrested for a short time at each transverse partition. The small spheres coalesce into larger spheres, or into oval, club-headed, threador necklace-like, or otherwise shaped masses of protoplasm, which, suspended in almost colourless fluid, exhibit incessant spontaneous changes of form. These frequently coalesce and again separate. If a gland has been powerfully excited, all the cells down to the base of the tentacle are affected. In cells, especially if filled with dark red fluid, the first step in the

process often is the formation of a dark red, baglike mass of protoplasm, which afterwards divides. and undergoes the usual repeated changes of form. Before any aggregation has been excited, a sheet of colourless protoplasm, including granules (the primordial utricle of Mohl), flows round the walls of the cells; and this becomes more distinct after the contents have been partially aggregated into spheres or bag-like masses. But after a time the granules

are drawn towards the central masses and unite with them; and then the circulating sheet can no longer be distinguished, but there is still a current of transparent fluid within the cells.

Aggregation is excited by almost all the stimulants which induce movement; such as the glands being touched two or three times, the pressure of minute inorganic particles, the absorption of various fluids, even long immersion in distilled water, exosmose, and heat. Of the many stimulants tried, carbonate of ammonia is the most energetic and acts the quickest: a dose of 100 of a grain (00048 mg.) given to a single gland suffices to cause in one hour wellmarked aggregation in the upper cells of the tentacle. The process goes on only as long as the protoplasm is in a living, vigorous, and oxygenated condition.

The result is in all respects exactly the same, whether a gland has been excited directly, or has received an influence from other and distant glands. But there is one important difference: when the central glands are irritated, they transmit centrifugally an influence up the pedicels of the exterior tentacles to their glands; but the actual process of aggregation travels centripetally, from the glands of the exterior tentacles down their pedicels. The exciting influence, therefore, which is transmitted from

one part of the leaf to another must be different from that which actually induces aggregation. The process does not depend on the glands secreting more copiously than they did before; and is independent of the inflection of the tentacles. It continues as long as the tentacles remain inflected, and as soon as these are fully re-expanded, the little masses of protoplasm are all redissolved; the cells becoming filled with homogeneous purple fluid, as they were before the leaf was excited.

As the process of aggregation can be excited by a few touches, or by the pressure of insoluble particles, it is evidently independent of the absorption of any matter, and must be of a molecular nature. Even when caused by the absorption of the carbonate or other salt of ammonia, or an infusion of meat, the process seems to be of exactly the same nature. The protoplasmic fluid must, therefore, be in a singularly unstable condition, to be acted on by such slight and varied causes. Physiologists believe that when a nerve is touched, and it transmits an influence to other parts of the nervous system, a molecular change is induced in it, though not visible to us. Therefore it is a very interesting spectacle to watch the effects on the cells of a gland, of the pressure of a bit of hair, weighing only of a grain and largely supported by the dense secretion, for this excessively slight pressure soon causes a visible change in the protoplasm, which change is transmitted down the whole length of the tentacle, giving it at last a mottled appearance, distinguishable even by the naked eye.

In the fourth chapter it was shown that leaves placed for a short time in water at a temperature of 110° Fahr. (43°3 Cent.) become somewhat inflected; they are thus also rendered more sensitive to the action

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