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Dictamnus – a burning Moses bush in bloom

One of the plants under active protection within the Life+ project called „Protection of valuable natural habitats in Ponidzie” is Dictamnus (Dictamnus albus L.). The plant is covered with glands that secrete flammable essential oils, making it smell like lemon. At elevated temperatures, the oils spontaneously ignite, hence the second name of the plant “burning Moses bush”. These compounds, on contact with the body, can cause burns in some people.

At present, one can see those plants in bloom on the seed plantation at the seat of the Świętokrzyskie and Nadnidziańskie Landscape Parks Complex. Dictamnus blooms from late May to July. Its flowers are pale pink, with a distinct, dark innervation, but sometimes also white. The plant blooms late — after about 3–4 years from seeding. Older specimens should not be replanted.

Dictamnus was first described in Chinese medical texts from around 600 AD. The bush was also described by Aristotle. In the Middle Ages it was used externally after being bitten by a viper and internally for poison treatment. The seeds were used to treat epilepsy and plague, and the essential oil of the flowers was used for lubrication in rheumatic diseases. The root was a treatment agent for difficult-healing wounds, gastric neurosis and urolithiasis.

At present, Dictamnus provides herbal material, which is leaves, flowers, root and seeds harvested from cultivated plants.

It was brought to Poland from the south-east, through Podole region. It is a steppe species, it grows in visible dry deciduous forests. It was most often found near Włocławek, in Kulin and in the Grabowiec forest-steppe reserve near Bogucice (this is where the seeds were collected for the plot near the parks).

A large number of flowering plants will provide an increased amount of seeds in the current vegetation season, which will be sown by the park staff to the natural places of occurrence of the plant. Dictamnus can grow up to 20 years in a convenient position. If the seed yield is comparably high in the following years, the measures taken will be able to significantly increase the plant population.