Dictamnus Albus, also known as gas plant, belongs to the citrus family, Rutaceae. It’s a lovely herbaceous plant with extensively showy blossoms. Native to southern Europe, Asia, and North Africa, the plant is grown as an ornamental in gardens and backyards. It is also referred to as burning bush, fraxinella or dittany.
The herbaceous perennial blooms in late spring to early summer in an upright fashion. It flourishes well in northern climates characterized by cool nights and tolerates light shade. Comprising of a woody base, a gas plant typically measures 2 to 4 feet in height and is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. The long, deep taproot system of this plant makes it very drought tolerant. In addition, it isn’t choosy about soil types and adapts to different types of soil and garden conditions.
A gas plant shouldn’t be divided or moved. Instead, you can use its seeds to grow a new one. However, this could also be challenging as the ripened seeds shoot out of the seed capsule as soon as you touch them. So, the best idea is to cover the seed heads in a bag and wait until the seeds drop in it. While the growth of a gas plant is pretty slow, it will bloom for years if you plant it in full sun, leave it alone, and avoid transplantation.
Nonetheless, don’t be deceived by the gorgeous appearance of gas plants. There’s something strange about this plant that you’ve probably never encountered with any other type of plant. Let’s see what this strange property is.
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Strange Property of Gas Plants
There’s an incredible phenomenon pertaining to the gas plant that corresponds to its odd name. Parts of the plant produce an oily substance that smells like a lemon. Of course, this isn’t the strange part. What’s fascinating about this oil is that it’s extremely volatile or flammable.
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During hot, dry, and windless days, the oil creates a gas around the plant that can burst into flames and set fire to the entire plant. Even in moderate weather conditions, the gas can go up in flames if lit using a lighter or a match. It’s because of the likelihood of this spontaneous ignition that the gas plant is also known as the burning plant. But what’s even more surprising is that after the ignition, the plant starts growing again like nothing ever happened!
It seems that little attention has been paid to uncover any possible reasons for this phenomenon. But a few who looked into it suggest that a type of oil called isoprene – present in plants – contains a highly flammable organic compound that is believed to protect them against heat stress. The gas plant does produce isoprene during hot summers, suggesting that this idea may well be true.
Additionally, although there isn’t any evidence supporting this, the ignitions might be intended to clear the surrounding plants. Since it does not harm the plant (as it starts growing again), it may just be a side effect of the production of the oil.
Besides this, some people claim that despite numerous attempts, they never actually managed to produce any flames from this plant. However, it’s possible that the conditions weren’t right when these experiments were conducted.
Source: In defense of plants
Harms Associated with Gas Plants
Everyone consents to the fact that the resin present in gas plants can cause rashes that blister and burn. Raised welts and oozing blisters can form on your arms with the slightest of touches against the leaves. This is a form of skin reaction called phytophotodermatitis.
While some people happen to be less sensitive to contact with the plant, it’s advised to proceed with caution. You should definitely wear gloves and protective clothing while you’re close to a gas plant.
Source: Garden fundamentals
Why Grow a Gas Plant?
Gas plants are admired due to the beautiful flowers that form tall spikes of fragrant pink or white, five-petal blossoms, rising from the tips of the stems. These blossoms have an attractive fragrance with citrusy overtones.
The star-shaped seed heads that emerge on blooming flowers give the plant its ornamental touch. When its rich-green, glossy compound leaves are crushed or bruised, they release a lemony fragrance. The blooming flowers have a pleasant, citrusy aroma to them. As an added bonus, the blossoms will frequently attract butterflies, swallowtails in particular, to your garden.
Dictamnus Albus, whether flowering or not flowering, possesses a lovely leaf structure, allowing it to make a big splash in gardens. Undoubtedly, few garden plants match the beauty of a mature gas plant. Its upright blossom spikes resemble miniature orchids comprising of curving stamens that strike upwards. The blooms begin to open up gradually at the base of the bloom stalk, with each adding its own value of beauty to the stem.
Yet, it’s a shame that we hardly see it in gardens today for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a slow grower. Plus, getting it to a scalable size costs nurseries too much money as well as time. Once planted, a gas plant needs to be left alone and doesn’t like to be disturbed. It’s pretty intolerant to transplantation or any sort of root disturbance. Thus, you can’t keep on planting other species around it. In addition, many people have simply switched to other plants that they consider ‘modern.’
Managing a Gas Plant
It is highly recommended that you carefully decide where to plant a Dictamnus albus. Try to find a location where you can leave the plant undisturbed for many years. The location is so significant for a gas plant that you should even consider whether a possible renovation to your home could bother the plant or its roots. After years of hard work raising the plant, you can’t just let it be the victim of a bulldozer, can you?
Moving ahead, the single most effective way of managing a gas plant in your garden is to grow it from scratch by planting seeds. The seed heads are star-shaped, while the seeds themselves are shiny, black and hard, pointed at one end. Like other aspects of growing this plant, finding the seeds in the right condition is again a tough task.
There are always exceptions, but obtaining a seed from an existing gas plant and successfully using it to plant another is tricky. Most don’t obtain results despite trying multiple ways such as freezing the obtained seeds, proving bottom warmth, and even cutting them with nail clippers. You may not even find the seeds at local nurseries (it’s that uncommon). To find the best seeds preserved in the right conditions, you should search for authentic sellers online.
When you order online, engage in some conversation to find out whether the seller even knows anything about the preservation of seeds. Once your order arrives, check its packing. It should be incredibly well-packed!
What Other Plants Should You Plant Gas Plants with?
A few types of plants pose absolutely no threat to gas plants. They can be safely planted around a gas plant without interrupting its roots or growth. These varieties include:
Irises are popular spring plants commonly found in spring gardens and bouquets. They’re named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. Their flowers broadly range in height and color with white, purple, and yellow being the most common. Each stem of an iris plant has one flower, which in turn contains 3 separate sepals that appear as the flower opens up.
While irises naturally grow during the spring, they can be grown all-year-round with the right planting techniques. Some iris species nurture well in alkaline soil while others prefer acidic soil.
Peonies are the types of herbaceous plants that you’ll find in almost every garden. They’re highly admired perennials and are often considered as a true indication of the arrival of spring. Their lovely flowers most commonly appear in red and pink shades or white and yellow shades. The flowers can bloom in a single, semi-double, fully-double or anemone centered form.
To ensure ideal growth, use deep, rich, and humid soil to eliminate dryness. Also, the crown shouldn’t be planted more than 2 inches below the surface. These plants are easy to manage and can thrive on zero care, given that the climate is favorable.
Daylilies are delicate looking plants containing glorious trumpet-shaped blooms that appear in numerous different colors. They are easy to grow and commonly seen in fields and ditches, expanding from gardens. They have been developed into so many variants that as many as 50,000 hybrid cultivars exist based on their sizes, heights, forms, and colors. Some daylilies have a fragrance, and flowers appear on leafless stems. They look beautiful when combined with gas plants.
Source: Dave’s garden
Gas plants don’t have many types, but the color of their flowers slightly differ. Following are the three recognized variants based on their bloom colors:
Dictamnus Albus ‘purpureus’ is a gas plant comprising of purplish-pink flowers with dark stems and veins. Like other varieties of gas plants, it nurtures slowly and is grown in zones 3-8.
The ‘Alba’ variant of the gas plant is characterized by white flower spikes. In the fall season, these flowers are transformed into star-shaped nut-brown seed pods. Again, this plant is cultivated in zones 3-8.
Dictamnus Albus ‘Rubra’
There’s one variety of gas plant that even the most devoted gardeners won’t have heard about. It’s the ‘Rubra’ variant of the gas plant, which is believed to have red-colored flowers. This variant is extremely rare, and you won’t easily find these plants. Both purpureus and alba forms are widely available in the market, but Rubra isn’t advertised much for sale. Customers hardly recognize it, and most sellers that sell this type of gas plant actually show and sell the purpureus variant to people who don’t know any better.
Source: Better homes and gardens
In summary, a gas plant can add tremendous value to your garden’s appearance, but growing and managing it can be challenging, especially if you’re a novice gardener. More importantly, make sure you keep your skin safe while working close to it. Your appearance is indeed more precious! Happy gardening!