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- The Power of Movement in Plants - 5/98 -
observations show that the cotyledons move [page 19] vertically up and down all day long, and as there was some slight lateral movement, they circumnutated.
Fig. 9. Brassica oleracea: circumnutation of hypocotyl, in darkness, traced on a horizontal glass, by means of a filament with a bead fixed across its summit, between 9.15 A.M. and 8.30 A.M. on the following morning. Figure here reduced to one-half of original scale.
The cabbage was one of the first plants, the seedlings of which were observed by us, and we did not then know how far the circumnutation of the different parts was affected by light. Young seedlings were therefore kept in complete darkness except for a minute or two during each observation, when they were illuminated by a small wax taper held almost vertically above them. During the first day the hypocotyl of one changed its course 13 times (see Fig. 9); and it deserves notice that the longer axes of the figures described often cross one another at right or nearly right angles. Another seedling was observed in the same manner, but it was much older, for it had formed a true leaf a quarter of an inch in length, and the hypocotyl was 1 3/8 inch in height. The figure traced was a very complex one, though the movement was not so great in extent as in the last case.
The hypocotyl of another seedling of the same age was secured to a little stick, and a filament having been fixed to the midrib of one of the cotyledons, the movement of the bead was traced during 14 h. 15 m. (see Fig. 10) in darkness. It should be noted that the chief movement of the cotyledons, namely, up and down, would be shown on a horizontal glass-plate only by the lines in the direction of the midrib (that is, [page 20] up and down, as Fig. 10 here stands) being a little lengthened or shortened; whereas any lateral movement would be well exhibited. The present tracing shows that the cotyledon did thus move laterally (that is, from side to side in the tracing) 12 times in the 14 h. 15 m. of observation. Therefore the cotyledons certainly circumnutated, though the chief movement was up and down in a vertical plane.
Fig 10. Brassica oleracea: circumnutation of a cotyledon, the hypocotyl having been secured to a stick, traced on a horizontal glass, in darkness, from 8.15 A.M. to 10.30 P.M. Movement of the bead of the filament magnified 13 times.
Rate of Movement.--The movements of the hypocotyls and cotyledons of seedling cabbages of different ages have now been sufficiently illustrated. With respect to the rate, seedlings were placed under the microscope with the stage removed, and with a micrometer eye-piece so adjusted that each division equalled 1/500 inch; the plants were illuminated by light passing through a solution of bichromate of potassium so as to eliminate heliotropism. Under these circumstances it was interesting to observe how rapidly the circumnutating apex of a cotyledon passed across the divisions of the micrometer. Whilst travelling in any direction the apex generally oscillated backwards and forwards to the extent of 1/500 and sometimes of nearly 1/250 of an inch. These oscillations were quite different from the trembling caused by any disturbance in the same room or by the shutting of a distant door. The first seedling observed was nearly two inches in height and had been etiolated by having been grown in darkness. The tip of the cotyledon passed across 10 divisions of the micrometer, that is, 1/50 of an inch, in 6 m. 40 s. Short glass filaments were then fixed vertically to the hypocotyls of several seedlings so as to project a little above the cotyledons, thus exaggerating the rate of movement; but only a few of the observations thus made are worth giving. The most remarkable fact was the oscillatory movement above described, and the difference of rate at which the point crossed the divisions of the micrometer, after short intervals of time. For instance, a tall not-etiolated seedling had been kept for 14 h. in darkness; it was exposed before a north-east window for only [page 21] two or three minutes whilst a glass filament was fixed vertically to the hypocotyl; it was then again placed in darkness for half an hour and afterwards observed by light passing through bichromate of potassium. The point, oscillating as usual, crossed five divisions of the micrometer (i.e. 1/100 inch) in 1 m. 30 s. The seedling was then left in darkness for an hour, and now it required 3 m. 6 s. to cross one division, that is, 15 m. 30 s. to have crossed five divisions. Another seedling, after being occasionally observed in the back part of a northern room with a very dull light, and left in complete darkness for intervals of half an hour, crossed five divisions in 5 m. in the direction of the window, so that we concluded that the movement was heliotropic. But this was probably not the case, for it was placed close to a north-east window and left there for 25 m., after which time, instead of moving still more quickly towards the light, as might have been expected, it travelled only at the rate of 12 m. 30 s. for five divisions. It was then again left in complete darkness for 1 h., and the point now travelled in the same direction as before, but at the rate of 3 m. 18 s. for five divisions.
We shall have to recur to the cotyledons of the cabbage in a future chapter, when we treat of their sleep-movements. The circumnutation, also, of the leaves of fully-developed plants will hereafter be described.
Fig. 11. Githago segetum: circumnutation of hypocotyl, traced on a horizontal glass, by means of a filament fixed transversely across its summit, from 8.15 A.M. to 12.15 P.M. on the following day. Movement of bead of filament magnified about 13 times, here reduced to one-half the original scale.
Githago segetum (Caryophylleae).--A young seedling was dimly illuminated from above, and the circumnutation of the hypo- [page 22] cotyl was observed during 28 h., as shown in Fig. 11. It moved in all directions; the lines from right and to left in the figure being parallel to the blades of the cotyledons. The actual distance travelled from side to side by the summit of the hypocotyl was about .2 of an inch; but it was impossible to be accurate on this head, as the more obliquely the plant was viewed, after it had moved for some time, the more the distances were exaggerated.
We endeavoured to observe the circumnutation of the cotyledons, but as they close together unless kept exposed to a moderately bright light, and as the hypocotyl is extremely heliotropic, the necessary arrangements were too troublesome. We shall recur to the nocturnal or sleep-movements of the cotyledons in a future chapter.
Fig. 12. Gossypium: circumnutation of hypocotyl, traced on a horizontal glass, from 10.30 A.M. to 9.30 A.M. on following morning, by means of a filament fixed across its summit. Movement of bead of filament magnified about twice; seedling illuminated from above.
Gossypium (var. Nankin cotton) (Malvaceae).--The circumnutation of a hypocotyl was observed in the hot-house, but the movement was so much exaggerated that the bead twice passed for a time out of view. It was, however, manifest that two somewhat irregular ellipses were nearly completed in 9 h. Another seedling, 1 ½ in. in height, was then observed during 23 h.; but the observations were not made at sufficiently short intervals, as shown by the few dots in Fig. 12, and the tracing was not now sufficiently enlarged. Nevertheless there could be no doubt about the circumnutation of the hypocotyl, which described in 12 h. a figure representing three irregular ellipses of unequal sizes.
The cotyledons are in constant movement up and down during the whole day, and as they offer the unusual case of moving downwards late in the evening and in the early part of the night, many observations were made on them. A filament was fixed along the middle of one, and its movement traced on a vertical glass; but the tracing is not given, as the hypocotyl was not secured, so that it was impossible to distinguish clearly between its movement and that of the cotyledon. The cotyledons rose from 10.30 A.M. to about 3 P.M.; they then sank till 10 P.M., rising, however, greatly in the latter part of the night. [page 23] The angles above the horizon at which the cotyledons of another seedling stood at different hours is recorded in the following short table: --
Oct. 20 2.50 P.M...25o above horizon. Oct. 20 4.20 P.M...22o above horizon. Oct. 20 5.20 P.M...15o above horizon. Oct. 20 10.40 P.M...8o above horizon. Oct. 21 8.40 A.M...28o above horizon. Oct. 21 11.15 A.M...35o above horizon. Oct. 21 9.11 P.M...10o below horizon.
The position of the two cotyledons was roughly sketched at various hours with the same general result.
In the following summer, the hypocotyl of a fourth seedling was secured to a little stick, and a glass filament with triangles of paper having been fixed to one of the cotyledons, its movements were traced on a vertical glass under a double skylight in the house. The first dot was made at 4.20 P.M. June 20th; and the cotyledon fell till 10.15 P.M. in a nearly straight line. Just past midnight it was found a little lower and somewhat to one side. By the early morning, at 3.45 A.M., it had risen greatly, but by 6.20 A.M. had fallen a little. During the whole of this day (21st) it fell in a slightly zigzag line, but its normal course was disturbed by the want of sufficient illumination, for during the night it rose only a little, and travelled irregularly during the whole of the following day and night of June 22nd. The ascending and descending lines traced during the three days did not coincide, so that the movement was one of circumnutation. This seedling was then taken back to the hot-house, and after five days was inspected at 10 P.M., when the cotyledons were found hanging so nearly vertically down, that they might justly be said to have been asleep. On the following morning they had resumed their usual horizontal position.
Oxalis rosea (Oxalideae).--The hypocotyl was secured to a little stick, and an extremely thin glass filament, with two triangles of paper, was attached to one of the cotyledons, which was .15 inch in length. In this and the following species the end of the petiole, where united to the blade, is developed into a pulvinus. The apex of the cotyledon stood only 5 inches from the vertical glass, so that its movement was not greatly exaggerated as long as it remained nearly horizontal; but in the course of the day it both rose considerably above and fell beneath a horizontal position, and then of course the movement was much exaggerated. [page 24] In Fig. 13 its course is shown from 6.45 A.M. on June 17th, to 7.40 A.M. on the following morning; and we see that during the daytime, in the course of 11 h. 15 m., it travelled thrice down and twice up. After 5.45 P.M. it moved rapidly downwards, and in an hour or two depended vertically; it thus remained all night asleep. This position could not be represented on the vertical glass nor in the figure here given. By 6.40 A.M. on the following morning (18th) both cotyledons had risen greatly, and they continued to rise until 8 A.M., when they stood almost horizontally. Their movement was traced during the whole of this day and until the next morning; but a tracing is not given, as it was closely similar to Fig. 13, excepting that the lines were more zigzag. The cotyledons moved 7 times, either upwards or downwards; and at about 4 P.M. the great nocturnal sinking movement commenced.
Fig. 13. Oxalis rosea: circumnutation of cotyledons, the hypocotyl being secured to a stick; illuminated from above. Figure here given one-half of original scale.
Another seedling was observed in a similar manner during nearly 24 h., but with the difference that the hypocotyl was left free. The movement also was less magnified. Between 8.12 A.M. and 5 P.M. on the 18th, the apex of the
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