Not (likely) the burning bush of the Bible nor the dittany of the Harry Potter universe, Dictamnus albus is nevertheless sometimes assigned these common names in English. It is also known as gas plant or fraxinella. I’ll opt to use gas plant, though I suppose that common name could also apply to some members of the Brassicaceae or Fabaceae.
If I ever were to encounter Dictamnus albus, the temptation to be a botanical arsonist would have to be fought. Gas plant has been shown to produce over one hundred chemical compounds, including a variety of terpenoids that primarily constitute its volatile oils. While the surfaces of the plant are covered in these sticky oils (as Wikipedia notes, a fragrant, lemony aroma), these oils are also released into the surrounding air (at an increased rate with temperature). If the air has been still for some amount of time, a lighter or match near the base of an inflorescence will produce a small ball of flame for a less than a second, which quickly burns itself out with no readily-apparent harm to the plant:
While butterflies will visit the flowers, it is clear that the presence of volatile oils are meant to dissuade other insect visitors (of the hungry variety). Its defenses do not end there. Grown as a garden ornamental, it is not a plant to be handled without caution; among the many chemical compounds it produces are coumarins, the same class of organic compounds that produce the phytophotodermatitis of giant hogweed–a long-lasting (years? decades?) skin irritant that is sensitive to exposure to sunlight.
On a different topic for local readers, UBC Botanical Garden is having an Instagram photo contest for photos taken within the Garden. Read more below, and if you get a chance to visit the gardens, please participate!
In honour of National Garden Photography Day, we’re excited to announce our first ever Instagram photography competition! From today until June 30 at 11:59pm PST, hashtag photos you take at UBC Botanical Garden (including Nitobe Memorial Garden, plus areas adjacent to the Garden such as the entrance garden and the paths that border the Garden near SW Marine Drive) with BOTH “#ubcgardenphotocontest” and “#ubcgarden” to enter photos in the competition. The winner will receive free admission for four people, including Greenheart TreeWalk, and a $50 gift card from the Shop in the Garden! Two runners-up will receive admission for two people, including Greenheart TreeWalk. . . We want you to use your skills as a photographer to capture nature at and around UBC Botanical Garden in the most creative way you can. UBC Botanical Garden staff will first evaluate entries based on creativity, inventiveness, and aesthetic appeal, and will narrow down the list to ten finalists. Daniel Mosquin, who runs Botany Photo of the Day and has years’ worth of experience curating and capturing high-quality nature photographs, will select two runners-up and the winner based on that same criteria. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a big fancy camera; it’s about how you frame the photograph and capture nature in a unique and creative way! No entry fee or purchase necessary: entries submitted from the freely accessible area at the entrance to UBC Botanical Garden, which contains a plethora of curated blooming flowers, trees, shrubs, and more, as well as natural areas adjacent to UBC Botanical Garden, will receive equal consideration to any other entry. We will contact finalists via private Instagram Message and they must respond within 48 hours in order to be considered for their prize. Additionally, we require you to complete a final skill-based test and fill out a Declaration & Release form upon arriving at the Garden (or via email) before you are able to claim your prize. Per Instagram rules, we must mention this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. Garden staff and volunteers are not eligible to enter. Good luck and happy nature photographing!