The Power of Movement in Plants eBook

Francis Darwin
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 570 pages of information about The Power of Movement in Plants.
do not do so—­of which fact Desmodium gyrans offers a good instance, as likewise do three species of Nicotiana observed by us; also Sida rhombifolia, Abutilon Darwinii, and Chenopodium album.  On the other [page 315] hand, the cotyledons of some plants sleep and not the leaves, as with the species of Beta, Brassica, Geranium, Apium, Solanum, and Mirabilis, named in our list.  Still more striking is the fact that, in the same genus, the leaves of several or of all the species may sleep, but the cotyledons of only some of them, as occurs with Trifolium, Lotus, Gossypium, and partially with Oxalis.  Again, when both the cotyledons and the leaves of the same plant sleep, their movements may be of a widely dissimilar nature:  thus with Cassia the cotyledons rise vertically up at night, whilst their leaves sink down and twist round so as to turn their lower surfaces outwards.  With seedlings of Oxalis Valdiviana, having 2 or 3 well-developed leaves, it was a curious spectacle to behold at night each leaflet folded inwards and hanging perpendicularly downwards, whilst at the same time and on the same plant the cotyledons stood vertically upwards.

These several facts, showing the independence of the nocturnal movements of the leaves and cotyledons on the same plant, and on plants belonging to the same genus, lead to the belief that the cotyledons have acquired their power of movement for some special purpose.  Other facts lead to the same conclusion, such as the presence of pulvini, by the aid of which the nocturnal movement is continued during some weeks.  In Oxalis the cotyledons of some species move vertically upwards, and of others vertically downwards at night; but this great difference within the same natural genus is not so surprising as it may at first appear, seeing that the cotyledons of all the species are continually oscillating up and down during the day, so that a small cause might determine whether they should rise or sink at night.  Again, the peculiar nocturnal movement of the left-hand coty-[page 316] ledon of Trifolium strictum, in combination with that of the first true leaf.  Lastly, the wide distribution in the dicotyledonous series of plants with cotyledons which sleep.  Reflecting on these several facts, our conclusion seems justified, that the nyctitropic movements of cotyledons, by which the blade is made to stand either vertically or almost vertically upwards or downwards at night, has been acquired, at least in most cases, for some special purpose; nor can we doubt that this purpose is the protection of the upper surface of the blade, and perhaps of the central bud or plumule, from radiation at night. [page 317]


Modified circumnutationNyctitropic or sleep movements of leaves.

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The Power of Movement in Plants from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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