The popsicle’s chubby shape and bright, colorful surface might lead one to think it belongs on a playground. However, it is neither inert nor harmless. Its bright colors are produced by electrical discharge from the chemical gas xenon, which is found in high concentrations on Pandora. The popsicle plant takes up xenon from the soil and absorbs it from the air and transports it into specialized cells in the stem where it is stored. These cells possess giant organelles called vacuoles that can sequester high concentrations of xenon, including unstable isotopes that undergo radioactive decay. Popsicle plants are usually several degrees warmer than the surrounding environment due to the reactions occurring in the vacuoles. Storage products remain in vacuoles for the life of the plant and are not excreted. (Read more)
Research is underway on earth with the popsicle to determine whether it could be used in bioremediation to decontaminate soil following nuclear testing. On Pandora the plants are generally left alone.