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Electricity In Plant Life

Some plants are electrically weak, others are strong, says Royal Dixon, author of "The Human Side of Plants," in the Edison Monthly. Perhaps the strongest; that is, in the sense of electrical vibrations, is the sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) shown in the illustration. Others, such as iris, nicotiana, nasturtiums, and practically all the meat-eating plants, such as the "Venus fly-trap'' and the "sundew," afford splendid examples for experimentation. If any of these be placed "in connection with a galvanometer by means of electrodes attached to leaves on different sides, and one side of the plant be exposed to sunlight while the other side is kept shaded, then within from three to 10 seconds after exposure to sunlight there will be a flow of electricity from the lighted to the shaded parts amounting to .005 to .02 volt. This continues for about five minutes, when the magnet begins to swing back and shows an opposite current, of considerable magnitude.

The manifestations are similar to those, of "teranized nerve." A better understanding of the electrical qualities of plants will, no doubt, explain many of the hitherto mysterious habits of meat-eating plants. Especially will this be true of such terrible and uncanny plant monsters as the "devil's snare" of South America and the mammoth Utricularia, or fishing plant, which lures minnows and small animals into its voracious mouth, and suddenly, as if an electric button were secretly pressed, closes in upon its helpless prey. In other words, it fishes with a net electrically wired! Strange as it may sound this plant safeguarded itself by means of its electrical currents ages before we used the electric burglar alarm and door bell.

Were it not for this protection, the plant could not live and hold its own in such an aurial-infested region as it needs for its fishing ground.

Many strange stories are told of a vampire vine, commonly known as the "devil's snare," which grows near Lake Titicaca in South America. This uncanny vine is like a huge snake and it is supposed to be able to capture wild animals as large as dogs and suck the blood from their bodies, just as an insect-eating plant catches a fly and draws nutriment from the carcass.

The "devil's snare" is continually reaching out its huge white arms, which draw in every living thing that comes within its reach. This plant thrives in the inland region of the Nicaragua Canal.

A very peculiar plant, and one which has tremendous electrical powers, is the "telegraph plant" (Desniodium gyrans). It is a native of India, and each of its leaves is composed of three leaflets; the larger one stands erect during the day but turns down at night, while each of the smaller leaflets move day and night without stopping. They describe by means of jerking motions complete circles, not unlike the smaller hand of a watch.

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