Firethorn (Pyracantha) is a genus of thorny evergreen large shrubs in the family Rosaceae, subfamily Maloideae. They are native from southeast Europe east to southeast Asia, and are closely related to Cotoneaster, but have serrated leaf margins and numerous thorns (Cotoneasters are thornless).
The plants reach up to 6 m tall. The seven species have white flowers and either red, orange, or yellow berries (more correctly pomes). The flowers are produced during late spring and early summer; the pomes develop from late summer, and mature in late autumn.
- Pyracantha angustifolia. Southwest China.
- Pyracantha atalantoides. Southern China.
- Pyracantha coccinea (Scarlet firethorn). Italy east to Asia Minor.
- Pyracantha crenatoserrata. Central China.
- Pyracantha crenulata. Himalaya.
- Pyracantha koidzumii. Taiwan.
- Pyracantha rogersiana. Yunnan.
- Selected hybrids and cultivars
- 'Golden Charmer'
- 'Golden Dome'
- 'Orange Glow'
- 'Rosy Mantle'
- 'Santa Cruz'
Pyracanthas are valuable ornamental plants, grown in gardens for their decorative flowers and fruit, often very densely borne. Their dense thorny structure makes them particularly valued in situations where an impenetrable barrier is required. The aesthetic characteristics, in conjunction with their home security qualities, makes them a considerable alternative to artificial fences and walls They are also a good shrub for a wildlife garden, providing dense cover for roosting and nesting birds, summer flowers for bees and an abundance of berries as a food source. Pyracantha berries are not poisonous as commonly thought; although they are very bitter, they are edible when cooked and are sometimes made into jelly.
A Pyracantha grown as an espalier on a wall