Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/297

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283
SPONTANEOUS MOVEMENTS IN PLANTS.

tivity until they come into contact with the opening of the archegonium or female organ, which they enter, and thus fructify the germ of the new plant. Pringsheim describes the process by which the spermatozoa enter the archegonium as a very peculiar twisting motion, due to the action of the mucus or protoplasm of the germ-cell. He has seen a large number of spermatozoa enter a single cell, forming a kind of chain.

In describing these curious bodies, of the connection of which with the vegetable kingdom there is no room for doubt, one is irresistibly reminded of these lowly forms of animal life known as Amœba and Gromia, consisting apparently of shapeless masses of protoplasm possessing indeed far more restricted powers of locomotion than the zoospores and spermatozoa, their faculties in this respect being confined to the protrusion and retractation of arms or pseudopodia, by means of which a slow movement is effected. If the possession of consciousness and of a voluntary control over the movements of the body belongs to the animal kingdom even to its lowest forms, it is difficult to frame any cogent reason for denying these faculties to the vegetable organisms which we have been considering. A very interesting problem also presents itself for solution in the almost perfect identity of constitution between these lowest forms of animals and the protoplasmic elements in the constitution of more highly-organized forms. If the Amoebæ and Gromiæ are admitted to be distinct individual animals, the same line of reasoning would almost compel us to admit to the same rank the white corpuscles of the blood of mammalia, which present almost the same characters and possess the same power of protrusion and retractation of a portion of their substance.

The instances above cited illustrate the faculty of spontaneous motion possessed by detached portions of protoplasm endowed with the power of forming themselves into new individuals. This phenomenon appears, however, to be but a form of the property possessed by all protoplasm, of constant motion in some form or other. The circulation of the protoplasmic mucous fluid within the cells of plants is one of the most beautiful phenomena of vegetable life revealed by the microscope, and one of which the explanations at present offered appear quite inadequate. A favorite object for exhibiting this circulation or rotation is formed by the jointed hairs which cover the stamens of the Virginian spider-wort (Tradescantia Virginica). The movement is rendered visible by the presence, in the otherwise colorless fluid, of minute opaque granules of chlorophyll or other coloring-matter; and is observable with great ease in the semi-transparent tissue of certain water-plants, as Chara, or the Valisneria commonly grown in fresh-water aquariums. It consists of a slow movement of the protoplasmic fluid up one side of the cell, across the ends, and down the other side; not perpendicularly, but in an oblique or spiral course. The subject has been carefully investigated by three French physiologists, M.M.