The Project Gutenberg ebook of The Power of Movement in Plants, by Charles Darwin




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CHAPTER XI.


LOCALISED SENSITIVENESS TO GRAVITATION, AND ITS TRANSMITTED EFFECTS.


General considerations--Vicia faba, effects of amputating the tips of the radicles--Regeneration of the tips--Effects of a short exposure of the tips to geotropic action and their subsequent amputation--Effects of amputating the tips obliquely--Effects of cauterising the tips--Effects of grease on the tips--Pisum sativum, tips of radicles cauterised transversely, and on their upper and lower sides--Phaseolus, cauterisation and grease on the tips--Gossypium--Cucurbita, tips cauterised transversely, and on their upper and lower sides--Zea, tips cauterised--Concluding remarks and summary of chapter--Advantages of the sensibility to geotropism being localised in the tips of the radicles.


CIESIELSKI states* that when the roots of Pisum, Lens and Vicia were extended horizontally with their tips cut off, they were not acted on by geotropism; but some days afterwards, when a new root cap and vegetative point had been formed, they bent themselves perpendicularly downwards. He further states that if the tips are cut off, after the roots have been left extended horizontally for some little time, but before they have begun to bend downwards, they may be placed in any position, and yet will bend as if still acted on by geotropism; and this shows that some influence had been already transmitted to the bending part from the tip before it was amputated. Sachs repeated these experiments; he cut off a length of between .05 and 1 mm. (measured from the apex of the


* 'Abwartskrümmung der Wurzel,' Inaug. Dissert. Breslau, 1871, p. 29.

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vegetative point) of the tips of the radicles of the bean (Vicia faba), and placed them horizontally or vertically in damp air, earth, and water, with the result that they became bowed in all sorts of directions.* He therefore disbelieved in Ciesielski's conclusions. But as we have seen with several plants that the tip of the radicle is sensitive to contact and to other irritants, and that it transmits some influence to the upper growing part causing it to bend, there seemed to us to be no a priori improbability in Ciesielski's statements. We therefore determined to repeat his experiments, and to try others on several species by different methods.


Vicia faba.--Radicles of this plant were extended horizontally either over water or with their lower surfaces just touching it. Their tips had previously been cut off, in a direction as accurately transverse as could be done, to different lengths, measured from the apex of the root cap, and which will be specified in each case. Light was always excluded. We had previously tried hundreds of unmutilated radicles under similar circumstances, and found that every one that was healthy became plainly geotropic in under 12 h. In the case of four radicles which had their tips cut off for a length of 1.5 mm., new root caps and new vegetative points were re formed after an interval of 3 days 20 h.; and these when placed horizontally were acted on by geotropism. On some other occasions this regeneration of the tips and reacquired sensitiveness occurred within a somewhat shorter time. Therefore, radicles having their tips amputated should be observed in from 12 to 48 h. after the operation.


Four radicles were extended horizontally with their lower surfaces touching the water, and with their tips cut off for a length of only 0.5 mm.: after 23 h. three of them were still horizontal; after 47 h. one of the three became fairly geotropic; and after 70 h. the other two showed a trace of this action. The fourth radicle was vertically geotropic after 23 h.; but by an


* 'Arbeiten des Bot. Instituts in Würzburg,' Heft. iii. 1873, p. 432.

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accident the root cap alone and not the vegetative point was found to have been amputated; so that this case formed no real exception and might have been excluded.


Five radicles were extended horizontally like the last, and had their tips cut off for a length of 1 mm.; after 22 23 h., four of them were still horizontal, and one was slightly geotropic; after 48 h. the latter had become vertical; a second was also somewhat geotropic; two remained approximately horizontal; and the last or fifth had grown in a disordered manner, for it was inclined upwards at an angle of 65o above the horizon.


Fourteen radicles were extended horizontally at a little height over the water with their tips cut off for a length of 1.5 mm.; after 12 h. all were horizontal, whilst five control or standard specimens in the same jar were all bent greatly downwards. After 24 h. several of the amputated radicles remained horizontal, but some showed a trace of geotropism, and one was plainly geotropic, for it was inclined at 40o beneath the horizon.


Seven horizontally extended radicles from which the tips had been cut off for the unusual length of 2 mm. unfortunately were not looked at until 35 h. had elapsed; three were still horizontal, but to our surprise, four were more or less plainly geotropic.


The radicles in the foregoing cases were measured before their tips were amputated, and in the course of 24 h. they had all increased greatly in length; but the measurements are not worth giving. It is of more importance that Sachs found that the rate of growth of the different parts of radicles with amputated tips was the same as with unmutilated ones. Altogether twenty nine radicles were operated on in the manner above described, and of these only a few showed any geotropic curvature within 24 h.; whereas radicles with unmutilated tips always became, as already stated, much bent down in less than half of this time. The part of the radicle which bends most lies at the distance of from 3 to 6 mm. from the tip, and as the bending part continues to grow after the operation, there does not seem any reason why it should not have been acted on by geotropism, unless its curvature depended on some influence transmitted from the tip. And we have clear evidence of such transmission in Ciesielski's experiments, which we repeated and extended in the following manner.


Beans were embedded in friable peat with the hilum downwards, and after their radicles had grown perpendicularly down for a length of from ½ to 1 inch, sixteen were selected which

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were perfectly straight, and these were placed horizontally on the peat, being covered by a thin layer of it. They were thus left for an average period of 1 h. 37 m. The tips were then cut off transversely for a length of 1.5 mm., and immediately afterwards they were embedded vertically in the peat. In this position geotropism would not tend to induce any curvature, but if some influence had already been transmitted from the tip to the part which bends most, we might expect that this part would become curved in the direction in which geotropism had previously acted; for it should be noted that these radicles being now destitute of their sensitive tips, would not be prevented by geotropism from curving in any direction. The result was that of the sixteen vertically embedded radicles, four continued for several days to grow straight downwards, whilst twelve became more or less bowed laterally. In two of the twelve, a trace of curvature was perceptible in 3 h. 30 m., counting from the time when they had first been laid horizontally; and all twelve were plainly bowed in 6 h., and still more plainly in 9 h. In every one of them the curvature was directed towards the side which had been downwards whilst the radicles remained horizontal. The curvature extended for a length of from 5 to, in one instance, 8 mm., measured from the cut off end. Of the twelve bowed radicles five became permanently bent into a right angle; the other seven were at first much less bent, and their curvature generally decreased after 24 h., but did not wholly disappear. This decrease of curvature would naturally follow, if an exposure of only 1 h. 37 m. to geotropism, served to modify the turgescence of the cells, but not their subsequent growth to the full extent. The five radicles which were rectangularly bent became fixed in this position, and they continued to grow out horizontally in the peat for a length of about 1 inch during from 4 to 6 days. By this time new tips had been formed; and it should be remarked that this regeneration occurred slower in the peat than in water, owing perhaps to the radicles being often looked at and thus disturbed. After the tips had been regenerated, geotropism was able to act on them, so that they now became bowed vertically downwards. An accurate drawing (Fig. 195) is given on the opposite page of one of these five radicles, reduced to half the natural size.


We next tried whether a shorter exposure to geotropism would suffice to produce an after effect. Seven radicles were extended horizontally for an hour, instead of 1 h. 37 m. as in the

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former trial; and after their tips (1.5 mm. in length) had been amputated, they were placed vertically in damp peat. Of these, three were not in the least affected and continued for days to grow straight downwards. Four showed after 8 h. 30 m. a mere trace of curvature in the direction in which they had been acted on by geotropism; and in this respect they differed much from those which had been exposed for 1 h. 37 m., for many of the latter were plainly curved in 6 h. The curvature of one of these four radicles almost disappeared after 24 h. In the second, the curvature increased during two days and then decreased. the third radicle became permanently bent, so that its terminal part made an angle of about 45o with its original vertical direction. The fourth radicle became horizontal. These two, latter radicles continued during two more days to grow in the peat in the same directions, that is, at an angle of 45o beneath the horizon and horizontally. By the fourth morning new tips had been re formed, and now geotropism was able to act on them again, and they became bent perpendicularly downwards, exactly as in the case of the five radicles described in the last paragraph and as is shown in (Fig. 195) here given.


Fig. 195. Vicia faba: radicle, rectangularly bent at A, after the amputation of the tip, due to the previous influence of geotropism. L, side of bean which lay on the peat, whilst geotropism acted on the radicle. A, point of chief curvature of the radicle, whilst standing vertically downwards. B, point of chief curvature after the regeneration of the tip, when geotropism again acted. C, regenerated tip.


Lastly, five other radicles were similarly treated, but were exposed to geotropism during only 45 m. After 8 h. 30 m. only one was doubtfully affected; after 24 h. two were just perceptibly curved towards the side which had been acted on by geotropism; after 48 h. the one first mentioned had a radius of curvature of 60 mm. That this curvature was due to the action of geotropism during the horizontal position of the radicle, was shown after 4 days, when a new tip had been re formed, for it then grew perpendicularly downwards. We learn from this

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case that when the tips are amputated after an exposure to geotropism of only 45 m., though a slight influence is sometimes transmitted to the adjoining part of the radicle, yet this seldom suffices, and then only slowly, to induce even moderately well pronounced curvature.


In the previously given experiments on 29 horizontally extended radicles with their tips amputated, only one grew irregularly in any marked manner, and this became bowed upwards at an angle of 65o. In Ciesielski's experiments the radicles could not have grown very irregularly, for if they had done so, he could not have spoken confidently of the obliteration of all geotropic action. It is therefore remarkable that Sachs, who experimented on many radicles with their tips amputated, found extremely disordered growth to be the usual result. As horizontally extended radicles with amputated tips are sometimes acted on slightly by geotropism within a short time, and are often acted on plainly after one or two days, we thought that this influence might possibly prevent disordered growth, though it was not able to induce immediate curvature. Therefore 13 radicles, of which 6 had their tips amputated transversely for a length of 1.5 mm., and the other 7 for a length of only 0.5 mm., were suspended vertically in damp air, in which position they would not be affected by geotropism; but they exhibited no great irregularity of growth, whilst observed during 4 to 6 days. We next thought that if care were not taken in cutting off the tips transversely, one side of the stump might be irritated more than the other, either at first or subsequently during the regeneration of the tip, and that this might cause the radicle to bend to one side. It has also been shown in Chapter III. that if a thin slice be cut off one side of the tip of the radicle, this causes the radicle to bend from the sliced side. Accordingly, 30 radicles, with tips amputated for a length of 1.5 mm., were allowed to grow perpendicularly downwards into water. Twenty of them were amputated at an angle of 20o with a line transverse to their longitudinal axes; and such stumps appeared only moderately oblique. The remaining ten radicles were amputated at an angle of about 45o. Under these circumstances no less than 19 out of the 30 became much distorted in the course of 2 or 3 days. Eleven other radicles were similarly treated, excepting that only 1 mm. (including in this and all other cases the root cap) was amputated; and of these only one grew much, and two others slightly

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distorted; so that this amount of oblique amputation was not sufficient. Out of the above 30 radicles, only one or two showed in the first 24 h. any distortion, but this became plain in the 19 cases on the second day, and still more conspicuous at the close of the third day, by which time new tips had been partially or completely regenerated. When therefore a new tip is reformed on an oblique stump, it probably is developed sooner on one side than on the other: and this in some manner excites the adjoining part to bend to one side. Hence it seems probable that Sachs unintentionally amputated the radicles on which he experimented, not strictly in a transverse direction.


This explanation of the occasional irregular growth of radicles with amputated tips, is supported by the results of cauterising their tips; for often a greater length on one side than on the other was unavoidably injured or killed. It should be remarked that in the following trials the tips were first dried with blotting paper, and then slightly rubbed with a dry stick of nitrate of silver or lunar caustic. A few touches with the caustic suffice to kill the root cap and some of the upper layers of cells of the vegetative point. Twenty seven radicles, some young and very short, others of moderate length, were suspended vertically over water, after being thus cauterised. Of these some entered the water immediately, and others on the second day. The same number of uncauterised radicles of the same age were observed as controls. After an interval of three or four days the contrast in appearance between the cauterised and control specimens was wonderfully great. The controls had grown straight downwards, with the exception of the normal curvature, which we have called Sachs' curvature. Of the 27 cauterised radicles, 15 had become extremely distorted; 6 of them grew upwards and formed hoops, so that their tips sometimes came into contact with the bean above; 5 grew out rectangularly to one side; only a few of the remaining 12 were quite straight, and some of these towards the close of our observations became hooked at their extreme lower ends. Radicles, extended horizontally instead of vertically, with their tips cauterised, also sometimes grew distorted, but not so commonly, as far as we could judge, as those suspended vertically; for this occurred with only 5 out of 19 radicles thus treated.


Instead of cutting off the tips, as in the first set of experiments, we next tried the effects of touching horizontally extended radicles with caustic in the manner just described. But

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some preliminary remarks must first be made. It may be objected that the caustic would injure the radicles and prevent them from bending; but ample evidence was given in Chapter III. that touching the tips of vertically suspended radicles with caustic on one side, does not stop their bending; on the contrary, it causes them to bend from the touched side. We also tried touching both the upper and the lower sides of the tips of some radicles of the bean, extended horizontally in damp friable earth. The tips of three were touched with caustic on their upper sides, and this would aid their geotropic bending; the tips of three were touched on their lower sides, which would tend to counteract the bending downwards; and three were left as controls. After 24 h. an independent observer was asked to pick out of the nine radicles, the two which were most and the two which were least bent; he selected as the latter, two of those which had been touched on their lower sides, and as the most bent, two of those which had been touched on the upper side. Hereafter analogous and more striking experiments with Pisum sativum and Cucurbita ovifera will be given. We may therefore safely conclude that the mere application of caustic to the tip does not prevent the radicles from bending.


In the following experiments, the tips of young horizontally extended radicles were just touched with a stick of dry caustic; and this was held transversely, so that the tip might be cauterised all round as symmetrically as possible. The radicles were then suspended in a closed vessel over water, kept rather cool, viz., 55o   59o F. This was done because we had found that the tips were more sensitive to contact under a low than under a high temperature; and we thought that the same rule might apply to geotropism. In one exceptional trial, nine radicles (which were rather too old, for they had grown to a length of from 3 to 5 cm.), were extended horizontally in damp friable earth, after their tips had been cauterised and were kept at too high a temperature, viz., of 68o F., or 20o C. The result in consequence was not so striking as in the subsequent cases for although when after 9 h. 40 m. six of them were examined, these did not exhibit any geotropic bending, yet after 24 h., when all nine were examined, only two remained horizontal, two exhibited a trace of geotropism, and five were slightly or moderately geotropic, yet not comparable in degree with the control specimens. Marks had been made on seven of these cauterised radicles at 10 mm. from the tips, which includes

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the whole growing portion; and after the 24 h. this part had a mean length of 37 mm., so that it had increased to more than 3 ½ times its original length; but it should be remembered that these beans had been exposed to a rather high temperature.


Nineteen young radicles with cauterised tips were extended at different times horizontally over water. In every trial an equal number of control specimens were observed. In the first trial, the tips of three radicles were lightly touched with the caustic for 6 or 7 seconds, which was a longer application than usual. After 23 h. 30 m. (temp. 55o   56o F.) these three radicles,


Fig. 196. Vicia faba: state of radicles which had been extended horizontally for 23 h. 30 m.; A, B, C, tips touched with caustic; D, E, F, tips uncauterised. Lengths of radicles reduced to one half scale, but by an accident the beans themselves not reduced in the same degree.


A, B, C (Fig. 196), were still horizontal, whilst the three control specimens had become within 8 h. slightly geotropic, and strongly so (D, E, F) in 23 h. 30 m. A dot had been made on all six radicles at 10 mm. from their tips, when first placed horizontally. After the 23 h. 30 m. this terminal part, originally 10 mm. in length, had increased in the cauterised specimens to a mean length of 17.3 mm., and to 15.7 mm. in the control radicles, as shown in the figures by the unbroken transverse line; the dotted line being at 10 mm. from the apex. The control or uncauterised radicles, therefore, had actually grown less

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than the cauterised; but this no doubt was accidental, for radicles of different ages grow at different rates, and the growth of different individuals is likewise affected by unknown causes. The state of the tips of these three radicles, which had been cauterised for a rather longer time than usual, was as follows: the blackened apex, or the part which had been actually touched by the caustic, was succeeded by a yellowish zone, due probably to the absorption of some of the caustic; in A, both zones together were 1.1 mm. in length, and 1.4 mm. in diameter at the base of the yellowish zone; in B, the length of both was only 0.7 mm., and the diameter 0.7 mm.; in C, the length was 0.8 mm., and the diameter 1.2 mm.


Three other radicles, the tips of which had been touched with caustic curing 2 or 3 seconds, remained (temp. 58o   59o F.) horizontal for 23 h.; the control radicles having, of course, become geotropic within this time. The terminal growing part, 10 mm. in length, of the cauterised radicles had increased in this interval to a mean length of 24.5 mm., and of the controls to a mean of 26 mm. A section of one of the cauterised tips showed that the blackened part was 0.5 mm. in length, of which 0.2 mm. extended into the vegetative point; and a faint discoloration could be detected even to 1.6 mm. from the apex of the root cap.


In another lot of six radicles (temp. 55o   57o F.) the three control specimens were plainly geotropic in 8 ½ h.; and after 24 h. the mean length of their terminal part had increased from 10 mm. to 21 mm. When the caustic was applied to the three cauterised specimens, it was held quite motionless during 5 seconds, and the result was that the black marks were extremely minute. Therefore, caustic was again applied, after 8 ½ h., during which time no geotropic action had occurred. When the specimens were re examined after an additional interval of 15 ½ h., one was horizontal and the other two showed, to our surprise, a trace of geotropism which in one of them soon afterwards became strongly marked; but in this latter specimen the discoloured tip was only 2/3 mm. in length. The growing part of these three radicles increased in 24 h. from 10 mm. to an average of 16.5 mm.


It would be superfluous to describe in detail the behaviour of the 10 remaining cauterised radicles. The corresponding control specimens all became geotropic in 8 h. Of the cauterised, 6 were first looked at after 8 h., and one alone showed a trace

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of geotropism; 4 were first looked at after 14 h., and one alone of these was slightly geotropic. After 23   24h., 5 of the 10 were still horizontal, 4 slightly, and 1 decidedly, geotropic. After 48 h. some of them became strongly geotropic. The cauterised radicles increased greatly in length, but the measurements are not worth giving.


As five of the last mentioned cauterised radicles had become in 24 h. somewhat geotropic, these (together with three which were still horizontal) had their positions reversed, so that their tips were now a little upturned, and they were again touched with caustic. After 24 h. they showed no trace of geotropism; whereas the eight corresponding control specimens, which had likewise been reversed, in which position the tips of several pointed to the zenith, all became geotropic; some having passed in the 24 h. through an angle of 180o, others through about 135o, and others through only 90o. The eight radicles, which had been twice cauterised, were observed for an additional day (i.e. for 48 h. after being reversed), and they still showed no signs of geotropism. Nevertheless, they continued to grow rapidly; four were measured 24 h. after being reversed, and they had in this time increased in length between 8 and 11 mm.; the other four were measured 48 h. after being reversed, and these had increased by 20, 18, 23, and 28 mm.


In coming to a conclusion with respect to the effects of cauterising the tips of these radicles, we should bear in mind, firstly, that horizontally extended control radicles were always acted on by geotropism, and became somewhat bowed downwards in 8 or 9 h.; secondly, that the chief seat of the curvature lies at a distance of from 3 to 6 mm. from the tip; thirdly, that the tip was discoloured by the caustic rarely for more than 1 mm. in length; fourthly, that the greater number of the cauterised radicles, although subjected to the full influence of geotropism during the whole time, remained horizontal for 24 h., and some for twice as long; and that those which did become bowed were so only in a slight degree; fifthly, that the cauterised radicles continued to grow almost, and sometimes quite, as well as the uninjured ones along the part which bends most. And lastly, that a touch on the tip with caustic, if on one side, far from preventing curvature, actually induces it. Bearing all these facts in mind, we must infer that under normal conditions the geotropic curvature of the root is due to an influence transmitted from the apex to the adjoining part where the bending

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takes place; and that when the tip of the root is cauterised it is unable to originate the stimulus necessary to produce geotropic curvature.


As we had observed that grease was highly injurious to some plants, we determined to try its effects on radicles. When the cotyledons of Phalaris and Avena were covered with grease along one side, the growth of this side was quite stopped or greatly checked, and as the opposite side continued to grow, the cotyledons thus treated became bowed towards the greased side. This same matter quickly killed the delicate hypocotyls and young leaves of certain plants. The grease which we employed was made by mixing lamp black and olive oil to such a consistence that it could be laid on in a thick layer. The tips of five radicles of the bean were coated with it for a length of 3 mm., and to our surprise this part increased in length in 23 h. to 7.1 mm.; the thick layer of grease being curiously drawn out. It thus could not have checked much, if at all, the growth of the terminal part of the radicle. With respect to geotropism, the tips of seven horizontally extended radicles were coated for a length of 2 mm., and after 24 h. no clear difference could be perceived between their downward curvature and that of an equal number of control specimens. The tips of 33 other radicles were coated on different occasions for a length of 3 mm.; and they were compared with the controls after 8 h., 24 h., and 48 h. On one occasion, after 24 h., there was very little difference in curvature between the greased and control specimens; but generally the difference was unmistakable, those with greased tips being considerably less curved downwards. The whole growing part (the greased tips included) of six of these radicles was measured and was found to have increased in 23 h. from 10 mm. to a mean length of 17.7 mm.; whilst the corresponding part of the controls had increased to 20.8 mm. It appears therefore, that although the tip itself, when greased, continues to grow, yet the growth of the whole radicle is somewhat checked, and that the geotropic curvature of the upper part, which was free from grease, was in most cases considerably lessened.


Pisum sativum.--Five radicles, extended horizontally over water, had their tips lightly touched two or three times with dry caustic. These tips were measured in two cases, and found to be blackened for a length of only half a millimeter. Five other radicles were left as controls. The part which is most bowed through geotropism lies at a distance of several millimeters from

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the apex. After 24 h., and again after 32 h. from the commencement, four of the cauterised radicles were still horizontal, but one was plainly geotropic, being inclined at 45o beneath the horizon. The five controls were somewhat geotropic after 7 h. 20 m., and after 24 h. were all strongly geotropic; being inclined at the following angles beneath the horizon, viz., 59o, 60o, 65o, 57o, and 43o. The length of the radicles was not measured in either set, but it was manifest that the cauterised radicles had grown greatly.


The following case proves that the action of the caustic by itself does not prevent the curvature of the radicle. Ten radicles were extended horizontally on and beneath a layer of damp friable peat earth; and before being extended their tips were touched with dry caustic on the upper side. Ten other radicles similarly placed were touched on the lower side; and this would tend to make them bend from the cauterised side; and therefore, as now placed, upwards, or in opposition to geotropism. Lastly, ten uncauterised radicles were extended horizontally as controls. After 24 h. all the latter were geotropic; and the ten with their tips cauterised on the upper side were equally geotropic; and we believe that they became curved downwards before the controls. The ten which had been cauterised on the lower side presented a widely different appearance: No. 1, however, was perpendicularly geotropic, but this was no real exception, for on examination under the microscope, there was no vestige of a coloured mark on the tip, and it was evident that by a mistake it had not been touched with the caustic. No. 2 was plainly geotropic, being inclined at about 45o beneath the horizon; No. 3 was slightly, and No. 4 only just perceptibly geotropic; Nos. 5 and 6 were strictly horizontal; and the four remaining ones were bowed upwards, in opposition to geotropism. In these four cases the radius of the upward curvatures (according to Sachs' cyclometer) was 5 mm., 10 mm., 30 mm., and 70 mm. This curvature was distinct long before the 24 h. had elapsed, namely, after 8 h. 45 m. from the time when the lower sides of the tips were touched with the caustic.


Phaseolus multiflorus.--Eight radicles, serving as controls, were extended horizontally, some in damp friable peat and some in damp air. They all became (temp 20o   21o C.) plainly geotropic in 8 h. 30 m., for they then stood at an average angle of 63o beneath the horizon. A rather greater length of the radicle is bowed downwards by geotropism than in the case of Vicia faba,

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that is to say, rather more than 6 mm. as measured from the apex of the root cap. Nine other radicles were similarly extended, three in damp peat and six in damp air, and dry caustic was held transversely to their tips during 4 or 5 seconds. Three of their tips were afterwards examined: in (1) a length of 0.68 mm. was discoloured, of which the basal 0.136 mm. was yellow, the apical part being black; in (2) the discoloration was 0.65 mm. in length, of which the basal 0.04 mm. was yellow; in (3) the discoloration was 0.6 mm. in length, of which the basal 0.13 mm. was yellow. Therefore less than 1 mm. was affected by the caustic, but this sufficed almost wholly to prevent geotropic action; for after 24 h. one alone of the nine cauterised radicles became slightly geotropic, being now inclined at 10o beneath the horizon; the eight others remained horizontal, though one was curved a little laterally.


The terminal part (10 mm. in length) of the six cauterised radicles in the damp air, had more than doubled in length in the 24 h., for this part was now on an average 20.7 mm. long. The increase in length within the same time was greater in the control specimens, for the terminal part had grown on an average from 10 mm. to 26.6 mm. But as the cauterised radicles had more than doubled their length in the 24 h., it is manifest that they had not been seriously injured by the caustic. We may here add that when experimenting on the effects of touching one side of the tip with caustic, too much was applied at first, and the whole tip (but we believe not more than 1 mm. in length) of six horizontally extended radicles was killed, and these continued for two or three days to grow out horizontally.


Many trials were made, by coating the tips of horizontally extended radicles with the before described thick grease. The geotropic curvature of 12 radicles, which were thus coated for a length of 2 mm., was delayed during the first 8 or 9 h., but after 24 h. was nearly as great as that of the control specimens. The tips of nine radicles were coated for a length of 3 mm., and after 7 h. 10 m. these stood at an average angle of 30o beneath the horizon, whilst the controls stood at an average of 54o. After 24 h. the two lots differed but little in their degree of curvature. In some other trials, however, there was a fairly well marked difference after 24 h. between those with greased tips and the controls. The terminal part of eight control specimens increased in 24 h. from 10 mm. to a mean length of

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24.3 mm., whilst the mean increase of those with greased tips was 20.7 mm. The grease, therefore, slightly checked the growth of the terminal part, but this part was not much injured; for several radicles which had been greased for a length of 2 mm. continued to grow during seven days, and were then only a little shorter than the controls. The appearance presented by these radicles after the seven days was very curious, for the black grease had been drawn out into the finest longitudinal striae, with dots and reticulations, which covered their surfaces for a length of from 26 to 44 mm., or of 1 to 1.7 inch. We may therefore conclude that grease on the tips of the radicles of this Phaseolus somewhat delays and lessens the geotropic curvature of the part which ought to bend most.


Gossypium herbaceum.--The radicles of this plant bend, through the action of geotropism, for a length of about 6 mm. Five radicles, placed horizontally in damp air, had their tips touched with caustic, and the discoloration extended for a length of from 2/3 to 1 mm. They showed, after 7 h. 45 m. and again after 23 h., not a trace of geotropism; yet the terminal portion, 9 mm. in length, had increased on an average to 15.9 mm. Six control radicles, after 7 h. 45 m., were all plainly geotropic, two of them being vertically dependent, and after 23 h. all were vertical, or nearly so.


Cucurbita ovifera.--A large number of trials proved almost useless, from the three following causes: Firstly, the tips of radicles which have grown somewhat old are only feebly geotropic if kept in damp air; nor did we succeed well in our experiments, until the germinating seeds were placed in peat and kept at a rather high temperature. Secondly, the hypocotyls of the seeds which were pinned to the lids of the jars gradually became arched; and, as the cotyledons were fixed, the movement of the hypocotyl affected the position of the radicle, and caused confusion. Thirdly, the point of the radicle is so fine that it is difficult not to cauterise it either too much or too little. But we managed generally to overcome this latter difficulty, as the following experiments show, which are given to prove that a touch with caustic on one side of the tip does not prevent the upper part of the radicle from bending. Ten radicles were laid horizontally beneath and on damp friable peat, and their tips were touched with caustic on the upper side. After 8 h. all were plainly geotropic, three of them rectangularly; after 19 h.

[page 538]

all were strongly geotropic, most of them pointing perpendicularly downwards. Ten other radicles, similarly placed, had their tips touched with caustic on the lower side; after 8 h. three were slightly geotropic, but not nearly so much so as the least geotropic of the foregoing specimens; four remained horizontal; and three were curved upwards in opposition to geotropism. After 19 h. the three which were slightly geotropic had become strongly so. Of the four horizontal radicles, one alone showed a trace of geotropism; of the three up curved radicles, one retained this curvature, and the other two had become horizontal.


The radicles of this plant, as already remarked, do not succeed well in damp air, but the result of one trial may be briefly given. Nine young radicles between .3 and .5 inch in length, with their tips cauterised and blackened for a length never exceeding ½ mm., together with eight control specimens, were extended horizontally in damp air. After an interval of only 4 h. 10 m. all the controls were slightly geotropic, whilst not one of the cauterised specimens exhibited a trace of this action. After 8 h. 35 m., there was the same difference between the two sets, but rather more strongly marked. By this time both sets had increased greatly in length. The controls, however, never became much more curved downwards; and after 24 h. there was no great difference between the two sets in their degree of curvature.


Eight young radicles of nearly equal length (average .36 inch) were placed beneath and on peat earth, and were exposed to a temp. of 75o   76o F. Their tips had been touched transversely with caustic, and five of them were blackened for a length of about 0.5 mm., whilst the other three were only just visibly discoloured. In the same box there were 15 control radicles, mostly about .36 inch in length, but some rather longer and older, and therefore less sensitive. After 5 h., the 15 control radicles were all more or less geotropic: after 9 h., eight of them were bent down beneath the horizon at various angles between 45o and 90o, the remaining seven being only slightly geotropic: after 25 h. all were rectangularly geotropic. The state of the eight cauterised radicles after the same intervals of time was as follows: after 5 h. one alone was slightly geotropic, and this was one with the tip only a very little discoloured: after 9 h. the one just mentioned was rectangularly geotropic, and two others were slightly so, and these were the three which had been scarcely

[page 539]

affected by the caustic; the other five were still strictly horizontal. After 24 h. 40 m. the three with only slightly discoloured tips were bent down rectangularly; the other five were not in the least affected, but several of them had grown rather tortuously, though still in a horizontal plane. The eight cauterised radicles which had at first a mean length of .36 inch, after 9 h. had increased to a mean length of .79 inch; and after 24 h. 40 m. to the extraordinary mean length of 2 inches. There was no plain difference in length between the five well cauterised radicles which remained horizontal, and the three with slightly cauterised tips which had become abruptly bent down. A few of the control radicles were measured after 25 h., and they were on an average only a little longer than the cauterised, viz., 2.19 inches. We thus see that killing the extreme tip of the radicle of this plant for a length of about 0.5 mm., though it stops the geotropic bending of the upper part, hardly interferes with the growth of the whole radicle.


In the same box with the 15 control specimens, the rapid geotropic bending and growth of which have just been described, there were six radicles, about .6 inch in length, extended horizontally, from which the tips had been cut off in a transverse direction for a length of barely 1 mm. These radicles were examined after 9 h. and again after 24 h. 40 m., and they all remained horizontal. They had not become nearly so tortuous as those above described which had been cauterised. The radicles with their tips cut off had grown in the 24 h. 40 m. as much, judging by the eye, as the cauterised specimens.


Zea mays.--The tips of several radicles, extended horizontally in damp air, were dried with blotting paper and then touched in the first trial during 2 or 3 seconds with dry caustic; but this was too long a contact, for the tips were blackened for a length of rather above 1 mm. They showed no signs of geotropism after an interval of 9 h., and were then thrown away. In a second trial the tips of three radicles were touched for a shorter time, and were blackened for a length of from 0.5 to 0.75 mm.: they all remained horizontal for 4 h., but after 8 h. 30 m. one of them, in which the blackened tip was only 0.5 mm. in length, was inclined at 21o beneath the horizon. Six control radicles all became slightly geotropic in 4 h., and strongly so after 8 h. 30 m., with the chief seat of curvature generally between 6 or 7 mm. from the apex. In the cauterised specimens, the terminal growing part, 10 mm. in length, increased during

[page 540]

the 8 h. 30 m. to a mean length of 13 mm.; and in the controls to 14.3 mm.


In a third trial the tips of five radicles (exposed to a temp. of 70o   71o) were touched with the caustic only once and very slightly; they were afterwards examined under the microscope, and the part which was in any way discoloured was on an average .76 mm. in length. After 4 h. 10 m. none were bent; after 5 h. 45 m., and again after 23 h. 30 m., they still remained horizontal, excepting one which was now inclined 20o beneath the horizon. The terminal part, 10 mm. in length, had increased greatly in length during the 23 h. 30 m., viz., to an average of 26 mm. Four control radicles became slightly geotropic after the 4 h. 10 m., and plainly so after the 5 h. 45 m. Their mean length after the 23 h. 30 m. had increased from 10 mm. to 31 mm. Therefore a slight cauterisation of the tip checks slightly the growth of the whole radicle, and manifestly stops the bending of that part which ought to bend most under the influence of geotropism, and which still continues to increase greatly in length.]


Concluding Remarks.--Abundant evidence has now been given, showing that with various plants the tip of the radicle is alone sensitive to geotropism; and that when thus excited, it causes the adjoining parts to bend. The exact length of the sensitive part seems to be somewhat variable, depending in part on the age of the radicle; but the destruction of a length of from less than 1 to 1.5 mm. (about 1/20th of an inch), in the several species observed, generally sufficed to prevent any part of the radicle from bending within 24 h., or even for a longer period. The fact of the tip alone being sensitive is so remarkable a fact, that we will here give a brief summary of the foregoing experiments. The tips were cut off 29 horizontally extended radicles of Vicia faba, and with a few exceptions they did not become geotropic in 22 or 23 h., whilst unmutilated radicles were always bowed downwards in 8 or 9 h. It should be borne in mind that the mere act of cutting

[page 541]

off the tip of a horizontally extended radicle does not prevent the adjoining parts from bending, if the tip has been previously exposed for an hour or two to the influence of geotropism. The tip after amputation is sometimes completely regenerated in three days; and it is possible that it may be able to transmit an impulse to the adjoining parts before its complete regeneration. The tips of six radicles of Cucurbita ovifera were amputated like those of Vicia faba; and these radicles showed no signs of geotropism in 24 h.; whereas the control specimens were slightly affected in 5 h., and strongly in 9 h.


With plants belonging to six genera, the tips of the radicles were touched transversely with dry caustic; and the injury thus caused rarely extended for a greater length than 1 mm., and sometimes to a less distance, as judged by even the faintest discoloration. We thought that this would be a better method of destroying the vegetative point than cutting it off; for we knew, from many previous experiments and from some given in the present chapter, that a touch with caustic on one side of the apex, far from preventing the adjoining part from bending, caused it to bend. In all the following cases, radicles with uncauterised tips were observed at the same time and under similar circumstances, and they became, in almost every instance, plainly bowed downwards in one half or one third of the time during which the cauterised specimens were observed. With Vicia faba 19 radicles were cauterised; 12 remained horizontal during 23 24 h.; 6 became slightly and 1 strongly geotropic. Eight of these radicles were afterwards reversed, and again touched with caustic, and none of them became geotropic in 24 h., whilst the reversed control specimens became strongly bowed downwards within this time.

[page 542]

With Pisum sativum, five radicles had their tips touched with caustic, and after 32 h. four were still horizontal. The control specimens were slightly geotropic in 7 h. 20 m., and strongly so in 24 h. The tips of 9 other radicles of this plant were touched only on the lower side, and 6 of them remained horizontal for 24 h., or were upturned in opposition to geotropism; 2 were slightly, and 1 plainly geotropic. With Phaseolus multiflorus, 15 radicles were cauterised, and 8 remained horizontal for 24 h.; whereas all the controls were plainly geotropic in 8 h. 30 m. Of 5 cauterised radicles of Gossypium herbaceum, 4 remained horizontal for 23 h. and 1 became slightly geotropic; 6 control radicles were distinctly geotropic in 7 h. 45 m. Five radicles of Cucurbita ovifera remained horizontal in peat-earth during 25 h., and 9 remained so in damp air during 8 ½ h.; whilst the controls became slightly geotropic in 4 h. 10 m. The tips of 10 radicals of this plant were touched on their lower sides, and 6 of them remained horizontal or were upturned after 19 h., 1 being slightly and 3 strongly geotropic.


Lastly, the tips of several radicles of Vicia faba and Phaseolus multiflorus were thickly coated with grease for a length of 3 mm. This matter, which is highly injurious to most plants, did not kill or stop the growth of the tips, and only slightly lessened the rate of growth of the whole radicle; but it generally delayed a little the geotropic bending of the upper part.


The several foregoing cases would tell us nothing, if the tip itself was the part which became most bent; but we know that it is a part distant from the tip by some millimeters which grows quickest, and which, under the influence of geotropism, bends most. We have no reason to suppose that this part is injured by the death or injury of the tip; and it is certain

[page 543]

that after the tip has been destroyed this part goes on growing at such a rate, that its length was often doubled in a day. We have also seen that the destruction of the tip does not prevent the adjoining part from bending, if this part has already received some influence from the tip. As with horizontally extended radicles, of which the tip has been cut off or destroyed, the part which ought to bend most remains motionless for many hours or days, although exposed at right angles to the full influence of geotropism, we must conclude that the tip alone is sensitive to this power, and transmits some influence or stimulus to the adjoining parts, causing them to bend. We have direct evidence of such transmission; for when a radicle was left extended horizontally for an hour or an hour and a half, by which time the supposed influence will have travelled a little distance from the tip, and the tip was then cut off, the radicle afterwards became bent, although placed perpendicularly. The terminal portions of several radicles thus treated continued for some time to grow in the direction of their newly acquired curvature; for as they were destitute of tips, they were no longer acted on by geotropism. But after three or four days when new vegetative points were formed, the radicles were again acted on by geotropism, and now they curved themselves perpendicularly downwards. To see anything of the above kind in the animal kingdom, we should have to suppose than an animal whilst lying down determined to rise up in some particular direction; and that after its head had been cut off, an impulse continued to travel very slowly along the nerves to the proper muscles; so that after several hours the headless animal rose up in the predetermined direction.


As the tip of the radicle has been found to be the

[page 544]

part which is sensitive to geotropism in the members of such distinct families as the Leguminosae, Malvaceae, Cucurbitaceae and Gramineae, we may infer that this character is common to the roots of most seedling plants. Whilst a root is penetrating the ground, the tip must travel first; and we can see the advantage of its being sensitive to geotropism, as it has to determine the course of the whole root. Whenever the tip is deflected by any subterranean obstacle, it will also be an advantage that a considerable length of the root should be able to bend, more especially as the tip itself grows slowly and bends but little, so that the proper downward course may be soon recovered. But it appears at first sight immaterial whether this were effected by the whole growing part being sensitive to geotropism, or by an influence transmitted exclusively from the tip. We should, however, remember that it is the tip which is sensitive to the contact of hard objects, causing the radicle to bend away from them, thus guiding it along the lines of least resistance in the soil. It is again the tip which is alone sensitive, at least in some cases, to moisture, causing the radicle to bend towards its source. These two kinds of sensitiveness conquer for a time the sensitiveness to geotropism, which, however, ultimately prevails. Therefore, the three kinds of sensitiveness must often come into antagonism; first one prevailing, and then another; and it would be an advantage, perhaps a necessity, for the interweighing and reconciling of these three kinds of sensitiveness, that they should be all localised in the same group of cells which have to transmit the command to the adjoining parts of the radicle, causing it to bend to or from the source of irritation.


Finally, the fact of the tip alone being sensitive to

[page 545]

the attraction of gravity has an important bearing on the theory of geotropism. Authors seem generally to look at the bending of a radicle towards the centre of the earth, as the direct result of gravitation, which is believed to modify the growth of the upper or lower surfaces, in such a manner as to induce curvature in the proper direction. But we now know that it is the tip alone which is acted on, and that this part transmits some influence to the adjoining parts, causing them to curve downwards. Gravity does not appear to act in a more direct manner on a radicle, than it does on any lowly organised animal, which moves away when it feels some weight or pressure.

[page 546]


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