Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/666

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There can be little doubt on this latter point. I think we may certainly say that the earliest form which existed was a twining plant. We see that twining plants do not possess the essential feature of leaf or tendril-bearers, namely, the sensitiveness to a touch which enables a leaf or tendril to grasp a stick. But, on the other hand, most leaf and tendril-climbers do possess the essential quality of a twiner—the power of revolving or swinging round, which exists in the shoots, leaves, or tendrils of so many of them. This power of revolving merely serves in some leaf-and tendril-climbers to carry on the search for supports; but other leaf-and tendril-climbers, as we have seen, do actually wind spirally round a stick exactly like a true twiner. How twiners originally obtained their power of swinging round we need not now inquire; it seems to be merely an increase of a similar movement which is found to occur in a meaningless manner in other plants. Thus several flower-stems have been observed bowing themselves over and swinging round in small circles, like climbing plants. Here the movement is merely an unintelligible concomitant of growth, for, as we see, the movement is of no advantage to the flower-stem. But the existence of this movement is of great interest to us, for it shows how a twining plant might be developed by a similar movement being found to be advantageous, and being increased by natural selection to the requisite extent.

Another question which may occur to us is this: In what way is climbing by leaves or tendrils a more perfect method than twining? Why, when a plant had become a twining plant, did it not rest satisfied? The fact that leaf-and tendril-climbers have been developed out of twiners, and not vice versa, is a proof that climbing by leaves or tendrils is a more advantageous habit than twining; but we do not see why it should be so. If we inquire why any plant has become a climber, we shall see the reason. Light is a necessity for all green plants; and a plant which can climb is enabled to escape from the shadow of other plants with a far less waste of material than a forest tree, which only pushes its branches into the light by sheer growth. Thus the weak, straggling stem of a climbing plant gets all the advantages gained by the solid, column-like tree-trunk. If we apply this test—which is the most economical plan of climbing, twining, or leaf climbing—we see at once that a plant which climbs by seizing wastes far less material than one which twines. Thus a kidney-bean, which had climbed up a stick to a height of two feet, when unwound from its support was found to be three feet in length, whereas a pea which had climbed up two feet by its tendrils was hardly longer than the height reached. Thus the bean had wasted considerably more material by its method of climbing by twining round a stick, instead of going straight up, supported by its tendrils, like the pea. There are several other ways in which climbing by tendrils is a much better plan than twining. It is a safer method, as any one may convince himself by comparing