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Dictamnus albus (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)
Dictamnus albus (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)

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Zone
Zones 1-9, 31-45
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate
Toxicity
Oil from immature seed capsules may cause an allergic skin reaction.
Dictamnus albus albus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Dictamnus albus albus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

Dictamnus albus

Gas Plant, Fraxinella
Rutaceae
Perennials

A sturdy, long-lived perennial, native from Europe to northern China. It’s extremely permanent in colder climates, needing little care once established. It forms clumps 2 1/2–4 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. In early summer, it produces loose spires of blossoms at the branch tips. Each flower resembles a wild azalea, with narrow petals and prominent greenish stamens. Pink is the basic color, but nurseries offer lilac-purple D. a. purpureus and white D. a. albus. Seedpods that follow can be left in place for fall interest. Glossy olive green leaves with 9 to 11 leaflets, each 1–3 in. long, are handsome throughout the growing season.

The plant emits a strong lemony scent when rubbed or brushed against. In warm, humid weather, oils from immature seed capsules may briefly ignite if you hold a lighted match immediately beneath a flower cluster—hence the common name, “gas plant” (this “ignition test” does not harm the plant). Effective in borders; good cut flower.

Divide infrequently, since divisions are difficult to establish and often take 2 or 3 years to bloom well. Propagate from seed sown in fall or spring; or take root cuttings in spring. 

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