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A Bush That Burns

Could the biblical burning bush be Dictamnus albus?

dictamnus albus

Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (wikipedia)

Dictamnus albus.

The Bible contains a story in the book of Exodus that refers to a bush that burns but was not consumed. This is purported to have occurred when God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai.

The bush may have been Dictamnus albus with common names that include burning bush, gas plant, and dittany. It is an herbaceous woody stemmed perennial that produces spikes of little starry flowers in early summer. It grows three feet tall and has glossy green leaves in zones 3 to 9. Full sun and fertile soil are needed for it to flower well, and it can be propagated from seed.

There are both white and pale pink and purple flowering varieties, and all dislike being moved once they are established. These plants are pest free and long lived, however.

They have the unusual habit of exuding aromatic oil from the leaves, and in warm weather a lighted match held near to the leaves is said to result in the bush becoming engulfed in flames. It is such a short flare-up of flames, however, that the plant itself is not harmed.

Bible scholars say the exact species of the plant is not important to know because a miracle occurred regardless of what species it was. Some botanists and gardeners, however, are very interested and believe the plant that Moses saw burning was definitely Dictamnus.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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