Marlene Link writes about an unusual plant that can ignite


The gas plant (dictamnus albus) is a long-lived perennial herbacious species. It is a member of the citrus family (rutaceae) and smells like lemon in the hot summer heat.

It has leathery, glossy green leaves and it bears upright spikes of blooms that are very showy and resemble mini orchids. It grows 60 to 91 centimetres (24 to 36 inches) high, and the bloom stalks add another 25 to 30 centimetres (10 to 12 inches) to its height.

Typically, the bloom colours are purple, pale pink or white. There is also a red bloom available, which is really hard to find.

As the common name might suggest, this plant does something quite strange. The fumes from the oil that the gas plant produces are highly volatile and can actually ignite if the air temperature is high enough or if you light a match to the plant. It will produce a burst of blue flame that does not harm the plant. Isn’t nature full of mysterious wonders?

The gas plant is very drought-tolerant and prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade. It’s hardy in zones three to seven (which includes Haldimand and Glanbrook) and the gas plant grows in all types of soil.

It’s not commonly found in garden centres, but this unique plant is out there and worth the hunt, as butterflies are attracted to it, especially the swallowtail.

One word of caution when around the gas plant: The resin it produces may cause burning and blistering rashes, so wear protective clothes and gloves to avoid contact.

They grow a long, deep tap root, so choose a permanent location when you plant it and sit back and enjoy the flowers.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Dunnville Horticultural Society has suspended member meetings. If you have questions or comments, please contact club president Deb Zynomirski at or check out our website at

Note that 2021 club memberships are currently available through mail. Send a cheque or money order ($10 for a single, $15 per couple) to Dunnville Horticultural Society, P.O. Box 274, Dunnville, Ontario, N1A 2X5.


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