VI. THEORIES OF ORGANIC EVOLUTION

"That the petals of the calyx are precisely the same organs which have hitherto appeared as leaves on the stalk, but now stand grouped about a common centre in an often very different form, can, as it seems to me, be most clearly demonstrated. Already in connection with the cotyledons above, we noticed a similar working of nature. The first species, while they are developing out of the seed-kernel, display a radiate crown of unmistakable needles; and in the first childhood of these plants we see already indicated that force of nature whereby when they are older their flowering and fruit-giving state will be produced.

"We see this force of nature, which collects several leaves around an axis, produce a still closer union and make these approximated, modified leaves still more unrecognizable by joining them together either wholly or partially. The bell-shaped or so-called one-petalled calices represent these cloudy connected leaves, which, being more or less indented from above, or divided, plainly show their origin.

"We can observe the transition from the calyx to the corolla in more than one instance, for, although the color of the calyx is still usually green, and like the color of the leaves of the stalk, it nevertheless often varies in one or another of its parts—at the tips, the margins, the back, or even, the inward side—while the outer still remains on green.

"The relationship of the corolla to the leaves of the stalk is shown in more than one way, since on the stalks of some plants appear leaves which are already more or less colored long before they approach inflorescence; others are fully colored when near inflorescence. Nature also goes over at once to the corolla, sometimes by skipping over the organs of the calyx, and in such a case we likewise have an opportunity to observe that leaves of the stalk become transformed into petals. Thus on the stalk of tulips, for instance, there sometimes appears an almost completely developed and colored petal. Even more remarkable is the case when such a leaf, half green and half of it belonging to the stalk, remains attached to the latter, while another colored part is raised with the corolla, and the leaf is thus torn in two.

"The relationship between the petals and stamens is very close. In some instances nature makes the transition regular—e.g., among the Canna and several plants of the same family. A true, little-modified petal is drawn together on its upper margin, and produces a pollen sac, while the rest of the petal takes the place of the stamen. In double flowers we can observe this transition in all its stages. In several kinds of roses, within the fully developed and colored petals there appear other ones which are drawn together in the middle or on the side. This drawing together is produced by a small weal, which appears as a more or less complete pollen sac, and in the same proportion the leaf approaches the simple form of a stamen.

"The pistil in many cases looks almost like a stamen without anthers, and the relationship between the formation of the two is much closer than between the other parts. In retrograde fashion nature often produces cases where the style and stigma (Narben) become retransformed into petals—that is, the Ranunculus Asiaticus becomes double by transforming the stigma and style of the fruit-receptacle into real petals, while the stamens are often found unchanged immediately behind the corolla.

"In the seed receptacles, in spite of their formation, of their special object, and of their method of being joined together, we cannot fail to recognize the leaf form. Thus, for instance, the pod would be a simple leaf folded and grown together on its margin; the siliqua would consist of more leaves folded over another; the compound receptacles would be explained as being several leaves which, being united above one centre, keep their inward parts separate and are joined on their margins. We can convince ourselves of this by actual sight when such composite capsules fall apart after becoming ripe, because then every part displays an opened pod."[1]

The theory thus elaborated of the metamorphosis of parts was presently given greater generality through extension to the animal kingdom, in the doctrine which Goethe and Oken advanced independently, that the vertebrate skull is essentially a modified and developed vertebra. These were conceptions worthy of a poet—impossible, indeed, for any mind that had not the poetic faculty of correlation. But in this case the poet's vision was prophetic of a future view of the most prosaic science. The doctrine of metamorphosis of parts soon came to be regarded as of fundamental importance.