The vapours of chloroform, sulphuric and nitric ether, act in a singularly variable manner on different leaves, and on the several tentacles of the same leaf. This, I suppose, is owing to differences in the age or constitution of the leaves, and to whether certain tentacles have lately been in action. That these vapours are absorbed by the glands is shown by their changed colour; but as other plants not furnished with glands are affected by these vapours, it is probable that they are likewise absorbed by the stomata of Drosera. They sometimes excite extraordinarily rapid inflection, but this is not an invariable result. If allowed to act for even a moderately long time, they kill the leaves; whilst a small dose acting for only a short time serves as a narcotic or anaesthetic. In this case the tentacles, whether or not they have [page 228] become inflected, are not excited to further movement by bits of meat placed on the glands, until some considerable time has elapsed. It is generally believed that with animals and plants these vapours act by arresting oxidation.
Exposure to carbonic acid for 2 hrs., and in one case for only 45 m., likewise rendered the glands insensible for a time to the powerful stimulus of raw meat. The leaves, however, recovered their full powers, and did not seem in the least injured, on being left in the air for 24 or 48 hrs. We have seen in the third chapter that the process of aggregation in leaves subjected for two hours to this gas and then immersed in a solution of the carbonate of ammonia is much retarded, so that a considerable time elapses before the protoplasm in the lower cells of the tentacles becomes aggregated. In some cases, soon after the leaves were removed from the gas and brought into the air, the tentacles moved spontaneously; this being due, I presume, to the excitement from the access of oxygen. These inflected tentacles, however, could not be excited for some time afterwards to any further movement by their glands being stimulated. With other irritable plants it is known* that the exclusion of oxygen prevents their moving, and arrests the movements of the protoplasm within their cells, but this arrest is a different phenomenon from the retardation of the process of aggregation just alluded to. Whether this latter fact ought to be attributed to the direct action of the carbonic acid, or to the exclusion of oxygen, I know not.
* Sachs, ‘Trait de Bot.’ 1874, pp. 846, 1037. [page 229]
ON THE SENSITIVENESS OF THE LEAVES, AND ON THE LINES OF TRANSMISSION OF THE MOTOR IMPULSE.
Glands and summits of the tentacles alone sensitive—Transmission of the motor impulse down the pedicels of the tentacles, and across the blade of the leaf—Aggregation of the protoplasm, a reflex action—First discharge of the motor impulse sudden—Direction of the movements of the tentacles—Motor impulse transmitted through the cellular tissue— Mechanism of the movements—Nature of the motor impulse—Re-expansion of the tentacles.