Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/398

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
384
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

little insect was cut from the plant, put into water, and the leaf on which the insect was struggling placed under the microscope about six o'clock in the evening, and watched until eleven, by which time life was undoubtedly extinct. During these hours the fight for existence was most interesting, the tentacles one by one discharging their fluid, first by casting drops between the wings—an almost invariable proceeding—thus destroying their usefulness by gumming them firmly together (as in Figs. 3, 4). Then the tips of the tentacles, by this

PSM V23 D398 An insect trapped by the plant.jpg
Fig. 6. Fig. 7. Fig. 8.

time so much excited as to have quite lost their spherical form, are inserted between the joints about the head, and among the hairs of the feet and legs (as in Figs. 5, 6, 7), the stronger members being firmly pinioned by the stronger tentacles (as Fig. 8), while the small hairs are discharging their fluid. This fluid seems to be somewhat tenacious.

Small seeds and bits of sand are sometimes caught in the same
PSM V23 D398 Plant inspecting the catch.jpg
Fig. 9.
PSM V23 D398 Macerated remnants of an insect caught by the plant.jpg
Fig. 10.
manner, but rather daintily, as if the plant merely wished to see if it were worth while or not (as in Fig. 9). I have never seen them inclosed by the hairs, as are the animal substances.

These are some of the things that I have seen. I do not know what may be the motive of the plant; what it does with the insect, the last stage of whose strange eventful history I have so often seen in a dry, withered carcass, or a few detached and macerated limbs (Fig. 10). I do know, however, that the plant begins its depredatory career as early as the unfolding of the second pair of leaves from the cotyledons, and continues it up to the time of the first frosts.

And so, having come to where, for me, the "thus far" ends and the "no farther" begins, I beg to call the attention of those interested in insectivorous plants to the Petunia, which fills every waste place in our gardens.