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In my Dungeons and Dragons setting, the deep gnomes (svirfneblin) and dark elves (drow) have been fighting an underground war for several decades. The drow have managed to subjugate the svirfneblin and are using their technology. The main combat technology they want is the shot-cane, a manner of gun that all depends on one small underground bush, the shrieking shrub. This shrub grows a large quantity of nuts that are full of juice, dubbed C-juice. The thing about C-juice is that it creates an explosion when in contact with fire. The svirfneblin used it in bombs, naturally, but saw more potential for power. They discovered that the bark of shrieking shrubs is fireproof, to keep themselves from blowing up. The gnomes cut long, thick reeds, coated their insides in the bark, and constructed a firing mechanism inside, similar to early guns. But, what environmental circumstances could cause the shrubs to evolve with nuts full of death juice anyhow? If you need, I can tell you some of the fauna of the Underdark where they grow.

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    $\begingroup$ Exploding fruit is a real thing that takes no particularly outlandish explanation. That question has been asked on WB.SE several times before so you should be able to find examples of other questions to get your answer... the much bigger question should be what would allow a plant to grow underground to begin with. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Mar 12 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Exploding fruit mechanism $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Mar 12 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say this is related, but not a dupe as it's the juice being asked about not a particular plant structure (i.e. fruit as per the duplicate target). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12 at 21:42

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It's D&D - there's no guarantee the "evolution" of the shrubs needs to resemble real-world processes. (AFAIK, the Monster Manual has never worried too much about building consistent ecologies or evolutionary pathways for Ropers, Mimics, Flumphs, animate mushrooms, etc... so you'll fit right in if you sweep it all under the rug.)

Some more interesting options:

  • The bushes were originally created by a magic-user with the goal of creating a renewable source of grenades and/or keeping nosy neighbors our of her research facilities.
  • The bushes evolved in response to Underdark creatures which thought it tasted good, but which happened to be particularly vulnerable to fire, light, and/or loud noises.
  • The Svirfneblin have been selectively breeding the bushes for a long time to turn "naturally high alcohol & sugar" content into something easily weaponizable. Perhaps the nuts were originally favored as fuel for mundane fires (or drunken hazing) and became more potent over time...
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    $\begingroup$ Basically the reverse of Skull-Whomper Ale. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ I thought of the same answer. Another interesting option would be the influence of a nearby sleeping/chained fire god turning the wildlife more "fiery". Or maybe svirfneblin clerics prayed to their god to get an edge in the war and the god used a fraction of his power to change just a tiny aspect of the plant, making the nuts go boom and giving the svirfneblin free explosives. $\endgroup$
    – Murinus
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 14:10
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Many of our fruits can produce an explosive juice. Have you never seen a wasp or a bird or a monkey acting drunk after eating too many overripe fruits like figs? Myself I have sometimes tasted the unmistakable taste of alcohol when eating figs directly from the tree in the late summer.

If your plant has high sugar content somewhere, be it fruit or somewhere else, that sugar can be fermented to alcohol. Alcohol can evaporate and in mixture with air can become explosive.

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  • $\begingroup$ True, but the explosion will ruin the shrub. Even if it will still probably stay alive and/or keep growing after the nuts explode, all its leaves and other seeds will be destroyed. Why would a plant evolve to have such a self-destructive mechanism? Plus, it’s like an acorn and not a fruit. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Jobah_HigherMind: In real life botany, Eucalyptus trees did evolve exactly "such a self-destructive mechanism". $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Jobah_HigherMind Acorns are fruit (botanically speaking). $\endgroup$
    – bradrn
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 1:54
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There's at least one known plant with similar self-destructive behaviour - exploding cucumber. Its fruits accumulate highly pressurized liquid, which helps to spread seeds when ripe fruits fall off the branch and crack open.

Your bush can contain liquid that also helps protecting seeds from insects who eat them, or is a fertiliser.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn’t that the plant they based creepers off of? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ AFAIK, creeper was supposed to be a pig, but something went wrong and it ended up being a monster. minecraftfanon.fandom.com/wiki/Pig_Creeper $\endgroup$
    – ZuOverture
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I know about its origin, but the exploding part was added later. Might have been subliminally inspired by this plant. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 13:54
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Exploding fruit DO exists in nature.

An extreme example is Hura crepitans, the sandbox tree. Source: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hura_crepitans)

The sandbox tree's fruits are large, pumpkin-shaped capsules, 3–5 cm (1–2 in) long, 5–8 cm (2–3 in) diameter, with 16 carpels arranged radially. Its seeds are flattened and about 2 cm (3⁄4 in) diameter. The capsules explode when ripe, splitting into segments and launching seeds at 70 m/s (250 km/h; 160 mph).

Sources vary how far this throws the seeds from 30 m (100 ft) to 100 m (330 ft).

Widely scattering seeds is VERY effective propagation strategy.

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The shrieking shrub grows in the fire fungus ecosystem.

I invented fire fungus for this question about an underground D&D ecosystem.

Plant that produces a lot of vegetable oil?

The fire fungus is such an organism. It wants to burn. The burning fire fungus explodes and the fire resistant spores blow on the winds produced by the flame. In its underground environment, the fire kills things and depletes local oxygen so other things die. Food for the fungus.

The shrieking shrub takes advantage of fire fungus to disperse its seeds. The shrub also does well in an environment cleared by fire. Fungus and shrub are synergistic and large swaths of the underworld are dominated by these two organisms.

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