By some accounts the fragrant, volatile oils of Dictamnus fraxinella will cause a flame to flair when held to the flower's mouth. Hence the plant's common name, "Gas Plant".
Call me crazy, but I always wanted to test the theory myself. Was this a just a folk story of was it really true?
Doing a little research online, I was able to find several Youtude videos of zany gardeners setting their plants alight. Take a look at this bit of mad botany.
Having seen the videos, I was even more inspired to test the science!
In order to capture my own nutty experiment on film, I recruited my daughter-in-law as an assistant. Initially, our experiment was foiled however, when I couldn't find a barbecue lighter like the one I had seen used in the online videos. Normally, there are a least a couple in the kitchen drawer near the sink. Drat! I was worried that the flame from a simple match might not do the trick (not to mention might result in singed finger tips). Getting creative, we decided to roll up a piece of paper and use a cigarette lighter. As a precaution, we also filled a bucket with water. (On the off-chance we set the garden or ourselves ablaze!)
We don't live on a quiet street and so unfortunately we had a guaranteed audience for this bit of gardening theatrics. With passing motorists gapping, my daughter-in-law, Hanna held the lit cigarette lighter to the roll of paper. I expected the paper to catch fire immediately, but just the opposite happened. The paper smouldered and refused to ignite. Double drat! Hanna ran inside to grab a lighter weight of paper.
We tried again. Just as the end of the roll of paper caught fire, a bus load of school children passed by. "I'm not sure we are setting a good example.", Hanna said as she moved the flame closer to the flowers. (Kids don't try this one at home!)
Sure enough, there was a little whoosh as the plants oils ignited! The flowers however, remained unharmed. How amazing is that!
Gas plants are long lived perennials that can go for decades without dividing. They are also slow to establish themselves. My four foot tall, three foot wide plant has been at least five years in the making.
Fireworks aside, Dictamnus fraxinella is an elegant perennial that has attractive, dark green foliage that stays neat and fresh all summer long. Small white or rosy-purple flowers appear on foot long tapered spires in early June.
As you can see, you will need a fair bit of space for Dictamnus fraxinella. It prefers good soil and sun to light shade.
Have a great weekend everyone!