Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/155

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DIFFICULTIES AND OBJECTIONS

and colours of the flowers, the shapes and arrangement of the leaves, and the numerous other external characters of the whole plant. But since Mr. Darwin showed that plants gained both in vigour and in fertility by being crossed with other individuals of the same species, and that this crossing was usually effected by insects which, in search of nectar or pollen, carried the pollen from one plant to the flowers of another plant, almost every detail is found to have a purpose and a use. The shape, the size, and the colour of the petals, even the streaks and spots with which they are adorned, the position in which they stand, the movements of the stamens and pistil at various times, especially at the period of, and just after, fertilisation, have been proved to be strictly adaptive in so many cases that botanists now believe that all the external characters of flowers either are or have been of use to the species.

It has also been shown, by Kerner and other botanists, that another set of characteristics have relation to the prevention of ants, slugs, and other animals from reaching the flowers, because these creatures would devour or injure them without effecting fertilisation. The spines, hairs, or sticky glands on the stem or flower-stalk, the curious hairs or processes shutting up the flower, or sometimes even the extreme smoothness and polish of the outside of the petals so that few insects can hang to the part, have been shown to be related to the possible intrusion of these "unbidden guests."[1] And, still more recently, attempts have been made by Grant Allen and Sir John Lubbock to account for the innumerable forms, textures, and groupings of leaves, by their relation to the needs of the plants themselves; and there can be little doubt that these attempts will be ultimately successful. Again, just as flowers have been adapted to secure fertilisation or cross-fertilisation, fruits have been developed to assist in the dispersal of seeds; and their forms, sizes, juices, and colours can be shown to be specially adapted to secure such dispersal by the agency of birds and mammals; while the same end is secured in other

  1. See Kerner's Flowers and their Unbidden Guests for numerous other structures and peculiarities of plants which are shown to be adaptive and useful.