Weird-looking mutated daisies are the latest environmental scare associated with the Fukushima disaster. What’s clear is that such genetic oopsies are NOT rare and NOT just found with regards to radiation areas. They happen quite frequently.
Radiation from damaged power plant may be responsible for odd flowers, but there could be other forces at work.
A picture of malformed daisies uploaded to Twitter from Japan is going viral, causing many people to speculate that radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was rocked by a 2011 tsunami is to blame for the oddity.
The story which lends itself to fears of radiation affecting everyday life was picked up and hyped by dozens of news outlets. The source was a Twitter account and a website that highlights apparent weird things around Fukushima. Such sources should not be taken as fact with regards to a radiation and environmental threat.
While most sites just repeated the story, many did consult plant biologists for further explanation. Here is a good piece from Christian Science Monitor: Are Fukushima’s mutant daisies a wonder or a warning? This gives plenty of facts about fasciation, or cresting, a common mutation that causes flower head doubling.
The fear of plant mutation appeared less than a year after the March 2011 disaster but has received new attention due to social media prompting Snopes to debunk it.
Does this photograph show daisies near the Fukushima nuclear power plant that mutated as the result of radiation? Probably not.
While it’s possible that the radiation could have caused the mutation, many other factors could have also. Your editor, a flower gardener, has seen many similar strange flower heads especially in echinacea and daisies such as these. It just happens and is often introduced and propagated strategically to produce new varieties to sell. Mutations happen, they are the basis for evolution. It’s bad journalism to fan fears instead of explaining that this is a common natural occurrence.
Other scares included those regarding butterflies around the area. These were studied by scientists and the results published. Pictures of oddly shaped vegetables made the rounds in 2013. And weird fishes were attributed to ocean contamination. These topics go viral on occasion resulting in renewed fears that that earth is contaminated by the tsunami-derived disaster. Well, earth is quite a resilient place. Life finds a way.
Once again, the media capitalizes on fear and the general population’s lack of knowledge about nature.