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Peas and Cues (1930)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

A sweet pea seed starts to grow, with the radicle pushing down into the soil. The time lapse film shows the radicle and the side roots as well as root hairs. The "young plant" is then shown "forcing its way towards the light". Five days of growth was reduced to twenty seconds of footage.

Like many other legumes, peas have tendrils that can seize surrounding structures for support. The time-lapse film shows the tendrils waving around as the plant seeks out an "anchorage". The sensitivity of the tendrils is demonstrated by showing how even a single hair can be delicately grasped.

Time-lapse film of the flowers reveals that they open and shut according to the time of day. Leguminous flowers have a distinctive structure - two "wings" and a pair of petals that form a "keel". (This structure gave rise to a now obsolete botanical name for the legume family, Papilionaceae, the "butterfly" family).

A pair of tweezers pulls apart the keel to uncover the mechanical means by which pollen is deposited on visiting pollinating insects. A stop-motion sequence illustrates the process with a visiting model bee, followed by real-time film of a live bee. Microcinematography of pollen grains (magnified x2000) and the pollen tube (x3000), reveals the "male elements" in rapid motion. Fertilisation is illustrated in cartoon form.

Time-lapse photography shows the emergence of a pea pod from the dead flower. The drying pod shoots out peas in all directions. One seed falls on stony ground and dies. Another seed is able to grow, bringing the cycle full circle.