Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/217

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namely the structure of the flowers of orchids, and the movements of climbing plants. With respect to the former, he says: "The explanation of their origin is deemed thoroughly unsatisfactory — utterly insufficient to explain the incipient, infinitesimal beginnings of structures which are of utility only when they are considerably developed." As I have fully treated this subject in another work, I will here give only a few details on one alone of the most striking peculiarities of the flowers of orchids, namely, their pollinia. A pollinium, when highly developed, consists of a mass of pollen-grains, affixed to an elastic foot-stalk or caudicle, and this to a little mass of extremely viscid matter. The pollinia are by this means transported by insects from one flower to the stigma of another. In some orchids there is no caudicle to the pollen-masses, and the grains are merely tied together by fine threads; but as these are not confined to orchids, they need not here be considered; yet I may mention that at the base of the orchidaceous series, in Cypripedium, we can see how the threads were probably first developed. In other orchids the threads cohere at one end of the pollen-masses; and this forms the first or nascent trace of a caudicle. That this is the origin of the caudicle, even when of considerable length and highly developed, we have good evidence in the aborted pollen-grains which can sometimes be detected embedded within the central and solid parts.

With respect to the second chief peculiarity, namely, the little mass of viscid matter attached to the end of the caudicle, a long series of gradations can be specified, each of plain service to the plant. In most flowers belonging to other orders the stigma secretes a little viscid matter. Now, in certain orchids similar viscid matter is secreted, but in much larger quantities by one alone of the three stigmas; and this stigma, perhaps in consequence of the copious secretion, is rendered sterile. When an insect visits a flower of this kind, it rubs off some of the viscid matter, and thus at the same time drags away some of the pollen-grains. >From this simple condition, which differs but little from that of a multitude of common flowers, there are endless gradations,— to species in which the pollen-mass terminates in a very short, free caudicle,— to others in which the caudicle becomes firmly attached to the viscid matter, with the sterile stigma itself much modified. In this latter case we have a pollinium in its most highly developed and perfect condition. He who will carefully examine the flowers of orchids for himself will not deny the existence of the above series of gradations — from a mass of pollen-grains merely tied together by threads, with the stigma differing but little from that of an ordinary flower,