Burning Bush or the Gas Plant is an ornamental, perennial herb with leathery green leaves. The plant belongs to the genus Dictamnus and its Scientific or Binomial name is Dictamnus albus. The flowers are pale purple to white in color forming a spiky cluster at the tips. They are five-petalled and one inch in diameter with long stamens. The plant approximately grows about 40 cm (16 in) to 100 cm (39 in) high.
The plant has glands which are filled with a flammable substance that is gluey to touch. Burning bush emits strong lemon scented vapors during summer which can catch fire when ignited with a match without injuring the plant. Therefore, the name “Burning Bush” or “Gas Plant” comes to it due to presence of volatile oils that catch fire in hot weather. The burning nature of the oils is due to the presence of a component of isoprene. Isoprene emission is believed to have a defensive effect on plants like repelling insects and protecting against other dangers.
The burning bush has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for at least 1,500 years. A kind of lemon-scented tea is made from the dried leaves of gas plant. The plant also produces an oil that can cause skin irritation in some people. Several hours after coming in contact, the oil creates a chemical burn that can produce blisters. The oil appears to be sunlight activated. If the exposed skin is washed immediately i.e before it receives too much direct sunlight, irritation won’t occur. Hence, it is recommended to wear gloves and long sleeves when handling this plant.