Sketches – Radioactive Melons

Plant Radioactive Melon

The Globo Rebidus Radialis is one of the odder plants yet discovered by the deWulf, a plant that seems to have grown to take advantage of an abnormally high amount of Uranium-236 across most of a continent. While most plant life has proven to be uniquely radiation-tolerant (and thus the source of several breakthroughs in radiation treatment and mitigation), the G. Radialis instead took a different option, incorporating a small but noticeable amount of U-236 as part of its core biology.

Ranging in size from 30 to 75 centimetres in diameter, G. Radialis is best described as a natural RTG generator. A deep tap root reaches into what would be otherwise classified as contaminated soil, slowly drawing up both moisture and a small amount of U-236. Slowly it concentrates the uranium isotope in the central core of the fleshy spherical main body. The plant then uses the concentrated alpha decay to break apart chemical compounds and release energy to survive. These compounds circulate inside the plant’s sap, which also functions as a kind of cooling system. Older G. Radialis are often seen with several “palm fronds” that extend out of the top of the plant, providing additional thermal dissipation.

Despite this long-lived energy source, G. Radialis is not an immortal plant. Continual alpha decay results in a slow but steady buildup of waste compounds and helium inside the sap. Inevitably the former results in some vacuoles of the plant becoming clogged and unable to circulate, causing the plant to slowly warm up over time. Inevitably, the heat buildup becomes pronounced enough to cause part of the plant to become necrotic, which rapidly kills the rest of the plant. As an additional bonus, at this stage the buildup of helium usually results in a pressure imbalance, sometimes causing near-death specimens to pop or “explode”, though the latter term is almost always an exaggeration. The palm fronds on top are thought to be an evolutionary adaption to deal with heat dissipation, proof that sometimes the evolved solution isn’t the ideal one.

The existence G. Radialis results in several awkward questions. Obviously it’s life cycle helps concentrate U-236 in the topsoil, but the question remains how did this plan evolve in the first place to take advantage of this unique energy source. The second, and more important question, is how did such a high concentration of U-236 come to exist? Was it just a weird cosmic fluke? Or did something cause the better part of a continent to be contaminated with what could only be described as a staggering amount of U-236? And was G. Radialis a purely natural evolution?

This was just such a cool idea that I had to write it up. I originally had this plant specc’d to be out on Konigsberg, but the local geology and biomes don’t really make sense for it. This plant needs a desert, ideally a rain shadow one, and a good one just doesn’t exist on Kongisberg, as far as my notes go. But an idea like this doesn’t deserve to die. So it’s just sitting around till I get a good biosphere to slot it in.

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