RECORD: Anon. 1883. [Review of Movement in plants]. Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, vol. 29: 142-143.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe. 7.2021. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. Speculations on the Perceptive Power of Vegetables. By Thomas Percival, M.D., F.R.S. Read February 18, 1784. Vol. ii. p. I 14.

[page] 142


Let us compare the latest conclusions on this subject by the man who of all others seems fitted best to give an opinion. In his concluding remarks (see 'The Power of Movement in Plants,' by Charles Darwin, LL.D., F.R.S., assisted by Francis Darwin), pp. 571-573, he says :-'Finally, it is impossible not to be struck with the resemblance between the foregoing movements of plants and many of the actions performed unconsciously by the

[page] 143

lower animals. With plants an astonishingly small stimulus suffices; and even with allied plants one may be highly sensitive to the slightest continued pressure, and another highly sensitive to a slight momentary touch. The habit of moving at certain periods is inherited both by plants and animals; and several other points of similitude have been specified. But the most striking resemblance is the localization of their sensitiveness, and the transmission of an influence from the excited part to another which consequently moves. Yet plants do not of course possess nerves or a central nervous system; and we may infer that with animals such structures serve only for the more perfect transmission of impressions, and for the more complete intercommunication of the several parts. But as if to approach more nearly the feelings of Dr. Percival, he says at the end: 'It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the tip of the radicle thus endowed, and having the power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense-organs, and directing the several movements.'

After all, and even after reading Darwin's book on the motion of plants, we cannot be held to be nearer than Wordsworth, who says in 'Lines written in Early Spring':

Through primrose tufts in that sweet bower,

The periwinkle trails its wreaths;

And 'tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

• • • • • • •

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

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