The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 caused the meltdown of three of the six nuclear reactors of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, releasing radiation into the environment.
Now, four years after the disaster, deformed looking daisies have been spotted around Fukushima. A resident of Nasushiobara City tweeted on May 27 an image of deformed flowers that many believe may be linked to the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear plant.
"The right one grew up, split into 2 stems to have 2 flowers connected each other, having 4 stems of flower tied beltlike. The left one has 4 stems grew up to be tied to each other and it had the ring-shaped flower," Twitter user @San_kaido wrote.
Some in the social media thought that the image was doctored but the flowers' deformed appearance is real.
The condition may be assumed as the result of the radiation in the soil that led to the emergence of disfigured plants but it appears that the occurrence does not only occur in Fukushima and other places that experienced nuclear disasters.
The daisies' condition is a natural but rare ailment in vascular plants called fasciation, which happens when parts of the growing embryo abnormally fuse, causing flattened-looking stems. The flowers and leaves also often develop odd shapes and show up at unusual angles to the stem.
Several factors can induce fasciation. Among the possible explanations for this condition include hormonal imbalance and genetic mutation as well as fungal, bacterial and viral infections. It can also be the result of damage to the environment, so it isn't surprising to see this in Fukushima.
The condition can also occur in many plants including cannabis, but it cannot be treated. Experts say that once the damage has been done, it is no longer possible to correct fasciation on the affected stem, although pruning the affected stems without causing damage to the plant is possible in some instances.
While the daises' appearance may look frightening, the twitter user who posted the image explained that the radiation measurements from the area are considered safe for medium and even long-term habitation.
The meltdown of the three reactors compelled thousands of residents to evacuate. To date, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is the largest nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl incident.
Researchers studying the impact of the contamination have found that the population size and lifespan of certain species of butterfly and birds have dropped, with some of the animals exhibiting signs of abnormal growth.