Gas Plant, Fraxinella
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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