Finally, the fact of the tip alone being sensitive to [page 545] the attraction of gravity has an important bearing on the theory of geotropism. Authors seem generally to look at the bending of a radicle towards the centre of the earth, as the direct result of gravitation, which is believed to modify the growth of the upper or lower surfaces, in such a manner as to induce curvature in the proper direction. But we now know that it is the tip alone which is acted on, and that this part transmits some influence to the adjoining parts, causing them to curve downwards. Gravity does not appear to act in a more direct manner on a radicle, than it does on any lowly organised animal, which moves away when it feels some weight or pressure. [page 546]
Nature of the circumnutating movement—History of a germinating seed—The radicle first protrudes and circumnutates—Its tip highly sensitive— Emergence of the hypocotyl or of the epicotyl from the ground under the form of an arch — Its circumnutation and that of the cotyledons—The seedling throws up a leaf-bearing stem—The circumnutation of all the parts or organs—Modified circumnutation—Epinasty and hyponasty—Movements of climbing plants—Nyctitropic movements—Movements excited by light and gravitation—Localised sensitiveness—Resemblance between the movements of plants and animals—The tip of the radicle acts like a brain.
It may be useful to the reader if we briefly sum up the chief conclusions, which, as far as we can judge, have been fairly well established by the observations given in this volume. All the parts or organs in every plant whilst they continue to grow, and some parts which are provided with pulvini after they have ceased to grow, are continually circumnutating. This movement commences even before the young seedling has broken through the ground. The nature of the movement and its causes, as far as ascertained, have been briefly described in the Introduction. Why every part of a plant whilst it is growing, and in some cases after growth has ceased, should have its cells rendered more turgescent and its cell-walls more extensile first on one side and then on another, thus inducing circumnutation is not known. It would appear as if the changes in the cells required periods of rest. [page 547]
In some cases, as with the hypocotyls of Brassica, the leaves of Dionaea and the joints of the Gramineae, the circumnutating movement when viewed under the microscope is seen to consist of innumerable small oscillations. The part under observation suddenly jerks forwards for a length of .002 to .001 of an inch, and then slowly retreats for a part of this distance; after a few seconds it again jerks forwards, but with many intermissions. The retreating movement apparently is due to the elasticity of the resisting tissues.