Mirona Vicovean Beginner
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Posts by Mirona Vicovean

    Upon the ability of like to produce like rests the continuity of those plant groups, well exemplified by Lycopodium Selago and the ginkgo, which, through all the changing panorama of the history of the plant world, have steadily produced individuals so close to the ancestral type as to be essentially indistinguishable from it. It is upon the possession of this ability that all the different races of plants depend for the unchanged perpetuation of their kind. And, as we shall presently see, it is also upon this very ability that the new forms that do arise, rely for holding fast to their differences.

    All soluble carbohydrates, since they contain asymmetric carbon atoms, with the consequent larger groups on one side of the molecule than the other, rotate the plane of polarized light when it passes through a solution of the carbohydrate in question. The amount of the rotation depends upon the nature of the carbohydrate, the concentration of the solution, and the length of the column of solution through which the ray of polarized light passes. But the same definite amount of the same sugar, dissolved in the same volume of water, and placed in a tube of the same length, will always cause the same angular deviation, or rotation, of the plane in which the polarized light which passes through it is vibrated. In other words, the same number of molecules of the optically active substance in solution will always produce the same rotatory effect. This is called the specific rotatory power of the substance in question. It is expressed as the number of degrees of angular deviation of the plane of polarized light caused by a column of the solution exactly 200 mm. in length, the concentration of the solution being 100 grams of substance in 100 cc. at a temperature of 20° C.

    Among the elements whose physiological effects upon higher plants, such as the cereal crops, etc., when their soluble compounds are present in the soil, have been carefully studied, there are three fairly distinct types of injurious mineral elements. The first of these, represented by copper, zinc, and arsenic, apparently exert their toxic effect regardless of the proportion in which they are present in the nutrient solution which is presented to the plant; although the degree of injury varies with the amount of injurious substance present, of course. The second type, of which boron and manganese are representatives, apparently exerts a definite stimulating effect upon plants when supplied to them in concentrations below certain clearly defined limits; but are toxic in concentrations above these. The third includes many soluble salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium, etc., which while either innocuous or else definite sources of essential plant foods when in lower concentrations, become highly toxic, or corrosive, when present in the soil solution in concentrations above the limits of "toleration" of individual plants for these soluble salts. The tolerance shown by the different species of plants toward these soluble salts (the so-called "alkali" in soils) varies widely; indeed, there seems to be considerable variation in the resistance of different individual plants of the same species to injury from this cause.

    While the plant’s and, consequently, our debt to the leaf is seen to be tremendous, it cannot be ignored that, if plants produced nothing but leaves, the end of all plant life would come with the death from old age or disease of the present generation of plants. Except for those kinds that reproduce themselves by division or extension of their rootstocks, which bear buds, there would be no provision for increase. As only a comparatively small number of plants can reproduce by this method, it is obvious that something more must be provided to secure new generations of plants. Flowers, and the fruits and seeds which inevitably follow them, do this. All plants, with some exceptions to be noted later, produce flowers at some time in their life. In the case of the century plant, only once, after which they die. But except for ferns, mushrooms, seaweed, yeast, bacteria, and some other forms of so-called flowerless plants, a flower or blossom is to be found at some stage in the life of all plants.

    If we examine the leaves of a goldenrod, we find that they are large below and diminish in size toward the top. Just below and among the flower clusters they are so much reduced in size and often changed in color that they cease to be ordinary foliage leaves, and are known as bracts. The occurrence of bracts is nearly universal in flowering plants, and they form not only an apparently transitional stage between leaves and flowers, but an actual one.