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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II - 70/133 -
to the dawning light, it is perhaps diaheliotropism which explains your extraordinary case.
LETTER 689. TO F. MULLER. Down, April 12th, 1881.
I have delayed answering your last letter of February 25th, as I was just sending to the printers the MS. of a very little book on the habits of earthworms, of which I will of course send you a copy when published. I have been very much interested by your new facts on paraheliotropism, as I think that they justify my giving a name to this kind of movement, about which I long doubted. I have this morning drawn up an account of your observations, which I will send in a few days to "Nature." (689/1. "Nature," 1881, page 603. Curious facts are given on the movements of Cassia, Phyllanthus, sp., Desmodium sp. Cassia takes up a sunlight position unlike its own characteristic night-position, but resembling rather that of Haematoxylon (see "Power of Movement," figure 153, page 369). One species of Phyllanthus takes up in sunshine the nyctitropic attitude of another species. And the same sort of relation occurs in the genus Bauhinia.) I have thought that you would not object to my giving precedence to paraheliotropism, which has been so little noticed. I will send you a copy of "Nature" when published. I am glad that I was not in too great a hurry in publishing about Lagerstroemia. (689/2. Lagerstraemia was doubtfully placed among the heterostyled plants ("Forms of Flowers," page 167). F. Muller's observations showed that a totally different interpretation of the two sizes of stamen is possible. Namely, that one set serves merely to attract pollen-collecting bees, who in the act of visiting the flowers transfer the pollen of the longer stamens to other flowers. A case of this sort in Heeria, a Melastomad, was described by Muller ("Nature," August 4th, 1881, page 308), and the view was applied to the cases of Lagerstroemia and Heteranthera at a later date ("Nature," 1883, page 364). See Letters 620-30.) I have procured some plants of Melastomaceae, but I fear that they will not flower for two years, and I may be in my grave before I can repeat my trials. As far as I can imperfectly judge from my observations, the difference in colour of the anthers in this family depends on one set of anthers being partially aborted. I wrote to Kew to get plants with differently coloured anthers, but I learnt very little, as describers of dried plants do not attend to such points. I have, however, sowed seeds of two kinds, suggested to me as probable. I have, therefore, been extremely glad to receive the seeds of Heteranthera reniformis. As far as I can make out it is an aquatic plant; and whether I shall succeed in getting it to flower is doubtful. Will you be so kind as to send me a postcard telling me in what kind of station it grows. In the course of next autumn or winter, I think that I shall put together my notes (if they seem worth publishing) on the use or meaning of "bloom" (689/3. See Letters 736-40.), or the waxy secretion which makes some leaves glaucous. I think that I told you that my experiments had led me to suspect that the movement of the leaves of Mimosa, Desmodium and Cassia, when shaken and syringed, was to shoot off the drops of water. If you are caught in heavy rain, I should be very much obliged if you would keep this notion in your mind, and look to the position of such leaves. You have such wonderful powers of observation that your opinion would be more valued by me than that of any other man. I have among my notes one letter from you on the subject, but I forget its purport. I hope, also, that you may be led to follow up your very ingenious and novel view on the two-coloured anthers or pollen, and observe which kind is most gathered by bees.
LETTER 690. TO F. MULLER. [Patterdale], June 21st, 1881.
I should be much obliged if you could without much trouble send me seeds of any heterostyled herbaceous plants (i.e. a species which would flower soon), as it would be easy work for me to raise some illegitimate seedlings to test their degree of infertility. The plant ought not to have very small flowers. I hope that you received the copies of "Nature," with extracts from your interesting letters (690/1. "Nature," March 3rd, 1881, Volume XXIII., page 409, contains a letter from C. Darwin on "Movements of Plants," with extracts from Fritz Muller's letter. Another letter, "On the Movements of Leaves," was published in "Nature," April 28th, 1881, page 603, with notes on leaf-movements sent to Darwin by Muller.), and I was glad to see a notice in "Kosmos" on Phyllanthus. (690/2. "Verirrte Blatter," by Fritz Muller ("Kosmos," Volume V., page 141, 1881). In this article an account is given of a species of Phyllanthus, a weed in Muller's garden. See Letter 687.) I am writing this note away from my home, but before I left I had the satisfaction of seeing Phyllanthus sleeping. Some of the seeds which you so kindly sent me would not germinate, or had not then germinated. I received a letter yesterday from Dr. Breitenbach, and he tells me that you lost many of your books in the desolating flood from which you suffered. Forgive me, but why should you not order, through your brother Hermann, books, etc., to the amount of 100 pounds, and I would send a cheque to him as soon as I heard the exact amount? This would be no inconvenience to me; on the contrary, it would be an honour and lasting pleasure to me to have aided you in your invaluable scientific work to this small and trifling extent. (690/3. See Letter 687, also "Life and Letters," III., page 242.)
LETTER 691. TO F. MULLER.
(691/1. The following extract from a letter to F. Muller shows what was the nature of Darwin's interest in the effect of carbonate of ammonia on roots, etc. He was, we think, wrong in adhering to the belief that the movements of aggregated masses are of an amoeboid nature. The masses change shape, just as clouds do under the moulding action of the wind. In the plant cell the moulding agent is the flowing protoplasm, but the masses themselves are passive.)
September 10th, 1881.
Perhaps you may remember that I described in "Insectivorous Plants" a really curious phenomenon, which I called the aggregation of the protoplasm in the cells of the tentacles. None of the great German botanists will admit that the moving masses are composed of protoplasm, though it is astonishing to me that any one could watch the movement and doubt its nature. But these doubts have led me to observe analogous facts, and I hope to succeed in proving my case.
LETTER 692. TO F. MULLER. Down, November 13th, 1881.
I received a few days ago a small box (registered) containing dried flower-heads with brown seeds somewhat sculptured on the sides. There was no name, and I should be much obliged if some time you would tell me what these seeds are. I have planted them.
I sent you some time ago my little book on earthworms, which, though of no importance, has been largely read in England. I have little or nothing to tell you about myself. I have for a couple of months been observing the effects of carbonate of ammonia on chlorophyll and on the roots of certain plants (692/1. Published under the title "The Action of Carbonate of Ammonia on the Roots of Certain Plants and on Chlorophyll Bodies," "Linn. Soc. Journ." XIX., 1882, pages 239-61, 262-84.), but the subject is too difficult for me, and I cannot understand the meaning of some strange facts which I have observed. The mere recording new facts is but dull work.
Professor Wiesner has published a book (692/2. See Letter 763.), giving a different explanation to almost every fact which I have given in my "Power of Movement in Plants." I am glad to say that he admits that almost all my statements are true. I am convinced that many of his interpretations of the facts are wrong, and I am glad to hear that Professor Pfeffer is of the same opinion; but I believe that he is right and I wrong on some points. I have not the courage to retry all my experiments, but I hope to get my son Francis to try some fresh ones to test Wiesner's explanations. But I do not know why I have troubled you with all this.
LETTER 693. TO F. MULLER. [4, Bryanston Street], December 19th, 1881.
I hope that you may find time to go on with your experiments on such plants as Lagerstroemia, mentioned in your letter of October 29th, for I believe you will arrive at new and curious results, more especially if you can raise two sets of seedlings from the two kinds of pollen.
Many thanks for the facts about the effect of rain and mud in relation to the waxy secretion. I have observed many instances of the lower side being protected better than the upper side, in the case, as I believe, of bushes and trees, so that the advantage in low-growing plants is probably only an incidental one. (693/1. The meaning is here obscure: it appears to us that the significance of bloom on the lower surface of the leaves of both trees and herbs depends on the frequency with which all or a majority of the stomata are on the lower surface--where they are better protected from wet (even without the help of bloom) than on the exposed upper surface. On the correlation between bloom and stomata, see Francis Darwin "Linn. Soc. Journ." XXII., page 99.) As I am writing away from my home, I have been unwilling to try more than one leaf of the Passiflora, and this came out of the water quite dry on the lower surface and quite wet on the upper. I have not yet begun to put my notes together on this subject, and do not at all know whether I shall be able to make much of it. The oddest little fact which I have observed is that with Trifolium resupinatum, one half of the leaf (I think the right-hand side, when the leaf is viewed from the apex) is protected by waxy secretion, and not the other half (693/2. In the above passage "leaf" should be "leaflet": for a figure of Trifolium resupinatum see Letter 740.); so that when the leaf is dipped into water, exactly half the leaf comes out dry and half wet. What the meaning of this can be I cannot even conjecture. I read last night your very interesting article in "Kosmos" on Crotalaria, and so was very glad to see the dried leaves sent by you: it seems to me a very curious case. I rather doubt whether it will apply to Lupinus, for, unless my memory deceives me, all the leaves of the same plant sometimes behaved in the same manner; but I will try and get some of the same seeds of the Lupinus, and sow them in the spring. Old age, however, is telling on me, and it troubles me to have more than one subject at a time on hand.
(693/3. In a letter to F. Muller (September 10, 1881) occurs a sentence which may appropriately close this series: "I often feel rather ashamed of myself for asking for so many things from you, and for taking up so much of your valuable time, but I can assure you that I feel grateful.")
2.XI.III. MISCELLANEOUS, 1868-1881.
LETTER 694. TO G. BENTHAM. Down, April 22nd, 1868.
I have been extremely much pleased by your letter, and I take it as a very great compliment that you should have written to me at such length...I am not at all surprised that you cannot digest pangenesis: it is enough to give any one an indigestion; but to my mind the idea has been an immense relief, as I could not endure to keep so many large classes of facts all floating loose in my mind without some thread of connection to tie them together in a tangible method.
With respect to the men who have recently written on the crossing of plants, I can at present remember only Hildebrand, Fritz Muller, Delpino,
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