Combustible Plants…Really, It’s a Thing!

The Gasplant Dictamnus albus is also known as Burning Bush or Dittany. Whatever you call it, here’s the interesting part…the blooms are naturally saturated with flammable oil. Hold a match to the base of their flower spike and they will flare up with a soft hiss and a pop. The whole thing happens pretty quickly and I have to warn you that it’s not as impressive as a pyrotechnic show, but it is still pretty amazing.

Hopefully this has ignited your interest in this pretty perennial. It is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s garden. The blooms vary in color from white to pink to purple and produce a lovely lemon scent. Even the leaves produce a fresh citrus scent when brushed or bruised.

Pink Dictamnus albus flowers

Gasplants are very hardy and maintenance free. They produce a tap-root and so should not be divided. While this does make them difficult to share with the neighbors, it also makes them a cinch to care for. Simply leave the plant alone to do its thing and it will return to your garden every season for 20 years or more.

Plants should be purchased from a nursery, as they can take three to four years to bloom from seed starts. When buying potted gasplants, be forewarned that in the first year all of the plant’s energy will go into establishing its roots, so it might appear to be doing poorly. Don’t worry! In the years to follow it will make up for its seemingly slow start with robust above surface growth.

The blooms show up in early summer and are short-lived (as is their flammability). However, the blossoms turn into bronze colored, star-shaped seed heads that remain eye-catching all season long…even if you can’t turn them into a torch. They look amazing in dried arrangements.

 

Specs

Height      3 to 4 feet (90-120 cm)

Spread      3 feet (90 cm)

Bloom Period     Early Summer

Growing Conditions     Prefers sun to light shade. Will do well in hot, dry areas.

Hardiness     Hardy down to Zone 3

Dividable     No

Perennial     Yes. Will live 20 years or more.