I need a plant that acts as a very relatively effective, portable source of stored chemical energy. I figure the best way to do this is to have a plant/plant-like organism that stores its unused energy as primarily adipose tissue instead of starch.

I’ve currently settled on a tuber / potato-type thing that originates from a cold place with little sunlight (prone to long winters but short, warm summers). The plant has evolved to combat its own scarcity and a limited reproduction window by “hibernating” for most of the year and sprouting rapidly when the proper conditions are met. Its ability to hibernate allows it to go dormant for long periods of time - almost like a seed - and spring back up when re-planted and re-hydrated.

The tuber itself is thick and fist-sized at the base, with a branched root system that resembles something like a mutated carrot. The roots have three layers: a thick skin, a carrot-like outer shell, and a core of unique adipose tissue. The two outer layers carry out normal root functions. The fatty core is composed of Cells with large, specialized leucoplasts that store fatty oil instead of starch.

When it sprouts, its leaves are broad to absorb as much sunlight as possible. It’s thorny to deter opportunistic predators from getting to its roots. The flowers look very similar to your standard potato’s.

The world is modern Earth-adjacent in every other way, so I’d like to know if my approach is Probable or at least reasonable, and if there’s anything else here I haven’t considered. I’m also curious if there’s any specific way this plant would have to look that conflicts with what I’ve imagined. This is also my first time posting here, so let me know if I’ve made any mistakes or need to be clearer!

  • $\begingroup$ Question looks good to me, welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! Now I'm not a biologist, so just out of curiosity: any particular reason you specify adipose tissue as the source of the biochemical energy you need? I'm not sure if a plant can even metabolise lipids found in animals, given we use oxygen in the relevant chemistry and plants have an inverse relation with that element compared to us. I could be very wrong though. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jan 12, 2021 at 0:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm Fats and Oils are generally most effective at storing energy - the best way I can justify my specific need in this case is the same reason we have oil lamps but no sugar lamps. It’s a far better fuel source! Plants do contain lipids, just not very many, and it Tends to be found in seeds / reproductive tissues. The fatty cells in this plant would hypothetically have oil-storing Leucoplasts (same thing that stores starch in potatoes) instead of true adipocytes. $\endgroup$
    – user81873
    Jan 12, 2021 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ biology.stackexchange.com/questions/55632/… $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 12, 2021 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ I'm simple minded: plant + fat = palm ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 12, 2021 at 11:21

2 Answers 2


There are plenty of fat rich plants already in our world, with the only difference that those fats are stored in the fruits/seeds: avocados, olives, almonds, walnuts and all the seeds we use for extracting oil. Those plants are present in almost any climate: from the tropical regions for the avocado to colder climates for seeds like sunflower and rape.

However the fact that all the fats are addressed to the seeds and not to the mother plants seems suggesting that those are less effective in boosting growth in an already developed organism. All the bulb based plants I am aware of store energy as carbohydrates in their bulbs/roots.

It can simply be that the additional cost for building fats from sunlight and CO2 is not justified in terms of marginal gain except that for reproductive sake.


Space constraints favor storing energy as fat.

Why would I want to convert my wealth into diamonds? I cannot buy a pizza with a diamond. I have to find someone to buy my diamonds first and give me cash that I can use for the pizza. Diamonds are poorly fungible and frangible. I love those words "fungible and frangible". Diamonds are not them.

So too fats. They are energy dense but they have to be converted to sugar before they are burned for energy and that is cumbersome.

I would convert my wealth to diamonds because I have limited space - I am escaping my country on foot with nothing but my yoga pants. I cannot cram a bunch of bills in those pants because that is a bad look. I have a water bottle containing my diamonds. Diamonds fit a lot of wealth into little space.

Plants don't need to worry about space because they are not carrying anything and they don't move, and they can usually spread out where they grow. If you have surface area to do photosynthesis you have the volume to store calories as convenient sugars.

Where plants do need to worry about space is when they are seeds. Like me in my violet yoga pants, the seeds are also escaping their country with as much as they can carry in minimal space. With space now a consideration it makes sense to package energy as lipid.

I was wondering about a situation where mature plants needed to worry about space. Maybe a place where plants grew in tight cracks between rocks and could not spread out. Maybe a situation where weight was a consideration - for example the air plankton that people love on WB stack. I can totally imagine an aerial plant keeping energy as a drop of lipid. Maybe motile plants...

ok...thinking. There are motile photosynthesizers. I predict that these photosynthetic protists would keep energy as lipid. Lets see...


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