This section is from the book "The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sun Bathing", by Herbert M. Shelton. Also available from Amazon: The Hygienic System Vol III Fasting and Sun Bathing.
The plant kingdom teems with examples of autolysis, but a few familiar examples will suffice for our present purpose. All bulbs, of which the onion will serve as an example, maintain within themselves a new plant surrounded by sufficient food to tide it over during a period of rest, during which period it does not take up food from the soil and air. Indeed, it may be taken out of the ground and stored for long periods. The onion may begin to grow in the bin or bag in which it is stored. It sends up stems and soon almost the whole of the bulb of the onion is transformed into green blades. The bulb gradually becomes soft, and finally, there is left a mere shell, as the growing plant digests and utilizes the substance of the onion. Beets, turnips and many other tubers will grow in the same manner. By autolytic digestion of the substances in the tuber, material is provided for growth and, even while out of the ground, these plants will put forth stems and leaves and grow.
Who has not seen the housewife put a sweet potato in a jar of water and hang it up and watch it grow. It sends out stems which grow to great lengths and puts out many green leaves. Such a potato plant will continue to grow so long as there remains any of the food that was stored as sweet potato. The so-called Irish potato will also put forth stems and leaves and these will grow, drawing upon the substances stored in the potato as their sole source of food. If there is light, the leaves and stems of the potato will be green; if they are kept in the dark, the stems and leaves will be white. If there is a crack several feet away through which a little light enters, these stems will grow in the direction of the source of light and will grow several feet long, if the light is that far away. By autolysis the stored food substances in the tubers are broken up and made usable by the young plant.
The early growth of all plants from seed involves digestion of food stored in the seed. Seed, like the eggs of animals, are chiefly storehouses of food. The actual living part of the seed is almost microscopic in size.
A rose cutting or a fig cutting placed in the soil and watered, will put forth roots and leaves and grow. Both the leaves and the roots are grown from materials within the cutting. Cut a begonia leaf into small pieces and properly tend these and each piece will grow into a new begonia plant. The substances of the fragment of the leaf are used out of which to build a new plant. These are instances of the autolysis, redistribution and reorganization of materials contained within the part.