23 November 2010

A real-life "burning bush"

Dictamnus albus, "known variously as Burning-bush, False Dittany, White Dittany, Gas-plant and Fraxinella" is a perennial herb, that - as the video demonstrates - produces a flammable substance.

Some sources I've read describe the substance as a sticky tar or an oil; others say it is a methane-like gas.  I don't have time to sort that out - just wanted to share the video, because it's quite impressive.  Properly speaking, it's not the bush that's burning - just the gas excreted by the bush - so I'd rather call it the "gas plant."

And that way there wouldn't be any confusion with Euonymus - another shrub colloquially referred to as a "burning bush" because of its brilliant autumnal foliage.

Video via Now I Know and The Centered Librarian.


  1. The flames appear only when the hand touches the bush. Why is that?

  2. Because the hand is flicking a BIC lighter.

  3. The compound responsible for the flames might be ethylene (also known as ethene), a simple hydrocarbon gas that plants use as a hormone. That would also explain the "methane-like gas" comment.

  4. But, you do not have to use a lighter. It can just burst into a flame and it never damages the bush.

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