Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/304

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290
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

occurs in the leaves of some other leguminous plants, in several species of Oxalis, etc. M. Bert has observed that the sensitiveness is destroyed by the continual application of chloroform, and also by placing the plant constantly in the dark or in green light.

Similar movements to that of the Sensitive-plant, but occurring spontaneously, may be observed in other plants. Thus in the Desmodium gyrans or "Telegraph-plant," sometimes grown in our hot-houses, belonging to the same order, Leguminosæ, the leaf consists of three leaflets, a large central, and two smaller side ones. The motion is especially observable in the small side-leaflets, which on a warm summer's clay may be seen to rise and fall by a succession of jerking movements; now stopping for some time, then moving briskly, always resting for a while in some part of their course, and starting again without apparent cause, "seemingly of their own will," as Prof. Asa Gray remarks. The movement is not simply up and down, but the end of the moving leaflet sweeps more or less of a circuit. It is not set in motion by a touch, but begins, goes on, and stops, of itself.

An exceedingly remarkable instance of sensitiveness occurs in the case of the "Venus's Fly-trap" of North Carolina (Dionæa muscipula),

Fig. 7.
PSM V02 D304 Venus fly trap.jpg

represented in Fig. 7. The mid-rib of each leaf serves as a kind of hinge. When the inside of the blade of the leaf, or the fine bristles which grow on its surface, are touched by any foreign substance, the hinge suddenly closes, and if the intruding substance be a fly or other small object, it is immediately imprisoned as represented in the figure, the teeth on the margin of the leaf closing firmly upon one another like a steel trap, the sides of the trap then flatten down and press firmly