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- Insectivorous Plants - 20/80 -


little inflected, so a little saliva was added; 6th, as the tentacles were not strongly inflected, the fragment was transferred to another leaf, which acted at first slowly, but by the 9th closely embraced it. On the 11th this second leaf began to re-expand; the fragment was manifestly softened, and Dr. Klein reports, "a great deal of enamel and the greater part of the dentine decalcified."

Experiment 2.--May 1st, fragment placed on leaf; 2nd, tentacles fairly well inflected, with much secretion on the disc, and remained so until the 7th, when the leaf re-expanded. The fragment was now transferred to a fresh leaf, which next day (8th) was inflected in the strongest manner, and thus remained until the 11th, when it re-expanded. Dr. Klein reports, "a great deal of enamel and the greater part of the dentine decalcified."

Experiment 3.--May 1st, fragment moistened with saliva and placed on a leaf, which remained well inflected until 5th, when it re-expanded. The enamel was not at all, and the dentine only slightly, softened. The fragment was now transferred to a fresh leaf, which next morning (6th) was strongly inflected, and remained so until the 11th. The enamel and dentine both now somewhat softened; and Dr. Klein reports, "less than half the enamel, but the greater part of the dentine decalcified."

Experiment 4.--May 1st, a minute and thin bit of dentine, moistened with saliva, was placed on a leaf, which was soon inflected, and re-expanded on the 5th. The dentine had become as flexible as thin paper. It was then transferred to a fresh leaf, which next morning (6th) was strongly inflected, and reopened on the 10th. The decalcified dentine was now so tender that it was torn into shreds merely by the force of the re-expanding tentacles.]

From these experiments it appears that enamel is attacked by the secretion with more difficulty than dentine, as might have been expected from its extreme hardness; and both with more difficulty than ordinary bone. After the process of dissolution has once commenced, it is carried on with greater ease; this may be inferred from the leaves, to which the fragments were transferred, becoming in all four cases strongly inflected in the course of a single day; whereas the first set of leaves acted much less quickly and [page 108] energetically. The angles or projections of the fibrous basis of the enamel and dentine (except, perhaps, in No. 4, which could not be well observed) were not in the least rounded; and Dr. Klein remarks that their microscopical structure was not altered. But this could not have been expected, as the decalcification was not complete in the three specimens which were carefully examined.

Fibrous Basis of Bone.--I at first concluded, as already stated, that the secretion could not digest this substance. I therefore asked Dr. Burdon Sanderson to try bone, enamel, and dentine, in artificial gastric juice, and he found that they were after a considerable time completely dissolved. Dr. Klein examined some of the small lamellae, into which part of the skull of a cat became broken up after about a week's immersion in the fluid, and he found that towards the edges the "matrix appeared rarefied, thus producing the appearance as if the canaliculi of the bone-corpuscles had become larger. Otherwise the corpuscles and their canaliculi were very distinct." So that with bone subjected to artificial gastric juice complete decalcification precedes the dissolution of the fibrous basis. Dr. Burdon Sanderson suggested to me that the failure of Drosera to digest the fibrous basis of bone, enamel, and dentine, might be due to the acid being consumed in the decomposition of the earthy salts, so that there was none left for the work of digestion. Accordingly, my son thoroughly decalcified the bone of a sheep with weak hydrochloric acid; and seven minute fragments of the fibrous basis were placed on so many leaves, four of the fragments being first damped with saliva to aid prompt inflection. All seven leaves became inflected, but only very moderately, in the course of a day. [page 109] They quickly began to re-expand; five of them on the second day, and the other two on the third day. On all seven leaves the fibrous tissue was converted into perfectly transparent, viscid, more or less liquefied little masses. In the middle, however, of one, my son saw under a high power a few corpuscles, with traces of fibrillation in the surrounding transparent matter. From these facts it is clear that the leaves are very little excited by the fibrous basis of bone, but that the secretion easily and quickly liquefies it, if thoroughly decalcified. The glands which had remained in contact for two or three days with the viscid masses were not discoloured, and apparently had absorbed little of the liquefied tissue, or had been little affected by it.

Phosphate of Lime.--As we have seen that the tentacles of the first set of leaves remained clasped for nine or ten days over minute fragments of bone, and the tentacles of the second set for six or seven days over the same fragments, I was led to suppose that it was the phosphate of lime, and not any included animal matter, which caused such long continued inflection. It is at least certain from what has just been shown that this cannot have been due to the presence of the fibrous basis. With enamel and dentine (the former of which contains only 4 per cent. of organic matter) the tentacles of two successive sets of leaves remained inflected altogether for eleven days. In order to test my belief in the potency of phosphate of lime, I procured some from Prof. Frankland absolutely free of animal matter and of any acid. A small quantity moistened with water was placed on the discs of two leaves. One of these was only slightly affected; the other remained closely inflected for ten days, when a few of the tentacles began to [page 110] re-expand, the rest being much injured or killed. I repeated the experiment, but moistened the phosphate with saliva to insure prompt inflection; one leaf remained inflected for six days (the little saliva used would not have acted for nearly so long a time) and then died; the other leaf tried to re-expand on the sixth day, but after nine days failed to do so, and likewise died. Although the quantity of phosphate given to the above four leaves was extremely small, much was left in every case undissolved. A larger quantity wetted with water was next placed on the discs of three leaves; and these became most strongly inflected in the course of 24 hrs. They never re-expanded; on the fourth day they looked sickly, and on the sixth were almost dead. Large drops of not very viscid fluid hung from their edges during the six days. This fluid was tested each day with litmus paper, but never coloured it; and this circumstance I do not understand, as the superphosphate of lime is acid. I suppose that some superphosphate must have been formed by the acid of the secretion acting on the phosphate, but that it was all absorbed and injured the leaves; the large drops which hung from their edges being an abnormal and dropsical secretion. Anyhow, it is manifest that the phosphate of lime is a most powerful stimulant. Even small doses are more or less poisonous, probably on the same principle that raw meat and other nutritious substances, given in excess, kill the leaves. Hence the conclusion, that the long continued inflection of the tentacles over fragments of bone, enamel, and dentine, is caused by the presence of phosphate of lime, and not of any included animal matter, is no doubt correct.

Gelatine.--I used pure gelatine in thin sheets given [page 111] me by Prof. Hoffmann. For comparison, squares of the same size as those placed on the leaves were left close by on wet moss. These soon swelled, but retained their angles for three days; after five days they formed rounded, softened masses, but even on the eighth day a trace of gelatine could still be detected. Other squares were immersed in water, and these, though much swollen, retained their angles for six days. Squares of 1/10 of an inch (2.54 mm.), just moistened with water, were placed on two leaves; and after two or three days nothing was left on them but some acid viscid fluid, which in this and other cases never showed any tendency to regelatinise; so that the secretion must act on the gelatine differently to what water does, and apparently in the same manner as gastric juice.* Four squares of the same size as before were then soaked for three days in water, and placed on large leaves; the gelatine was liquefied and rendered acid in two days, but did not excite much inflection. The leaves began to re-expand after four or five days, much viscid fluid being left on their discs, as if but little had been absorbed. One of these leaves, as soon as it re-expanded, caught a small fly, and after 24 hrs. was closely inflected, showing how much more potent than gelatine is the animal matter absorbed from an insect. Some larger pieces of gelatine, soaked for five days in water, were next placed on three leaves, but these did not become much inflected until the third day; nor was the gelatine completely liquefied until the fourth day. On this day one leaf began to re-expand; the second on the fifth; and third on the sixth. These several facts

* Dr. Lauder Brunton, 'Handbook for the Phys. Laboratory,' 1873, pp. 477, 487; Schiff, 'Leons phys. de la Digestion,' 1867, p. 249. [page 112]

prove that gelatine is far from acting energetically on Drosera.

In the last chapter it was shown that a solution of isinglass of commerce, as thick as milk or cream, induces strong inflection. I therefore wished to compare its action with that of pure gelatine. Solutions of one part of both substances to 218 of water were made; and half-minim drops (.0296 ml.) were placed on the discs of eight leaves, so that each received 1/480 of a grain, or .135 mg. The four with the isinglass were much more strongly inflected than the other four. I conclude therefore that isinglass contains some, though perhaps very little, soluble albuminous matter. As soon as these eight leaves re-expanded, they were given bits of roast meat, and in some hours all became greatly inflected; again showing how much more meat excites Drosera than does gelatine or isinglass. This is an interesting fact, as it is well known that gelatine by itself has little power of nourishing animals.*

Chondrin.--This was sent me by Dr. Moore in a gelatinous state. Some was slowly dried, and a small chip was placed on a leaf, and a much larger chip on a second leaf. The first was liquefied in a day; the larger piece was much swollen and softened, but was not completely liquefied until the third day. The undried jelly was next tried, and as a control experiment small cubes were left in water for four days and retained their angles. Cubes of the same size were placed on two leaves, and larger cubes on two other leaves. The tentacles and laminae of the latter were closely inflected after 22 hrs., but those of the

* Dr. Lauder Brunton gives in the 'Medical Record,' January 1873, p. 36, an account of Voit's view of the indirect part which gelatine plays in nutrition. [page 113]

two leaves with the smaller cubes only to a moderate degree. The jelly on all four was by this time liquefied, and rendered very acid. The glands were blackened from the aggregation of their protoplasmic contents. In 46 hrs. from the time when the jelly was given, the leaves had almost re-expanded, and completely so after 70 hrs.; and now only a little slightly adhesive fluid was left unabsorbed on their discs.

One part of chondrin jelly was dissolved in 218 parts of boiling water, and half-minim drops were given to four leaves; so that each received about 1/480 of a grain (.135 mg.) of the jelly; and, of course, much less of dry chondrin. This acted most powerfully, for after only 3 hrs. 30 m. all four leaves were strongly inflected. Three of them began to re-expand after 24 hrs., and in 48 hrs. were completely open; but the fourth had only partially re-expanded. All the liquefied chondrin was by this time absorbed. Hence a solution of chondrin seems to act far more quickly and energetically than pure gelatine or isinglass; but I am assured by good authorities that it is most difficult, or impossible, to know whether chondrin is pure, and if it contained any


Insectivorous Plants - 20/80

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