Insectivorous Plants eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 462 pages of information about Insectivorous Plants.

The fact of a single touch or even of two or three touches not causing inflection must be of some service to the plant; as during stormy weather, the glands cannot fail to be occasionally touched by the tall blades of grass, or by other plants growing near; and it would be a great evil if the tentacles were thus brought into action, for the act of re-expansion takes a considerable time, and until the tentacles are re-expanded they cannot catch prey.  On the other hand, extreme sensitiveness to slight pressure is of the highest service to the plant; for, as we have seen, if the delicate feet of a minute struggling insect press ever so lightly on the surfaces of two or three glands, the tentacles bearing these glands soon curl inwards and carry the insect with them to the centre, causing, after a time, all the circumferential tentacles to embrace it.  Nevertheless, the movements of the plant are not perfectly adapted to its requirements; for if a bit of dry moss, peat, or other rubbish, is blown on to the disc, as often happens, the tentacles clasp it in a useless manner.  They soon, however, discover their mistake and release such innutritious objects.

It is also a remarkable fact, that drops of water falling from a height, whether under the form of natural or artificial rain, do not cause the tentacles to move; yet the drops must strike the glands with considerable force, more especially after the secretion has been all washed away by heavy rain; and this often occurs, [page 36] though the secretion is so viscid that it can be removed with difficulty merely by waving the leaves in water.  If the falling drops of water are small, they adhere to the secretion, the weight of which must be increased in a much greater degree, as before remarked, than by the addition of minute particles of solid matter; yet the drops never cause the tentacles to become inflected.  It would obviously have been a great evil to the plant (as in the case of occasional touches) if the tentacles were excited to bend by every shower of rain; but this evil has been avoided by the glands either having become through habit insensible to the blows and prolonged pressure of drops of water, or to their having been originally rendered sensitive solely to the contact of solid bodies.  We shall hereafter see that the filaments on the leaves of Dionaea are likewise insensible to the impact of fluids, though exquisitely sensitive to momentary touches from any solid body.

When the pedicel of a tentacle is cut off by a sharp pair of scissors quite close beneath the gland, the tentacle generally becomes inflected.  I tried this experiment repeatedly, as I was much surprised at the fact, for all other parts of the pedicels are insensible to any stimulus.  These headless tentacles after a time re-expand; but I shall return to this subject.  On the other hand, I occasionally succeeded in crushing a gland between a pair of pincers, but this caused no inflection.  In this latter case

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Insectivorous Plants from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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