Pyracantha is a genus of large, thorny evergreen shrubs in the family Rosaceae, with common names firethorn or pyracantha. They are native to an area extending from Southwest Europe east to Southeast Asia, resemble and are related to Cotoneaster, but have serrated leaf margins and numerous thorns (Cotoneaster is thornless).
|Pyracantha branch with berry-like pomes|
The plants reach up to 6 m (20 ft) tall. The seven species have white flowers and either red, orange, or yellow berries (technically pomes). The flowers are produced during late spring and early summer; the berries develop from late summer, and mature in late autumn.
- Pyracantha angustifolia. Southwest China.
- Pyracantha atalantioides. Southern China.
- Pyracantha coccinea (Scarlet firethorn). Northeastern Spain east to Northern Iran.
- Pyracantha crenatoserrata. Central China.
- Pyracantha crenulata. Himalaya.
- Pyracantha koidzumii. Taiwan.
- Pyracantha rogersiana. Yunnan.
Pyracanthas are valuable ornamental plants, grown in gardens for their decorative flowers and fruit, often very densely borne. Keep in mind the extremely difficult and painful process to prune and maintain the shrubs. The thorns are relentless in their pursuits of human flesh and when successful, the piercing of skin causes a slight inflammation, severe pain and induces a flurry of four-letter words. Their dense thorny structure makes them particularly valued in situations where an impenetrable barrier is required. The aesthetic characteristics of pyracanthas, in conjunction with their home security qualities, makes them an alternative to artificial fences and walls. They are also good shrubs 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 mildly poisonous as their seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides (as do apples, plums, cherries, and almonds) and can cause mild gastro-intestinal problems when eaten raw in large quantities; they are edible only when crushed and washed under running water. They have been made into jelly.
- Potter, D.; et al. (2007). "Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266 (1–2): 5–43. doi:10.1007/s00606-007-0539-9. [Referring to the subfamily by the name "Spiraeoideae"]
- "RHS Plant Selector - Pyracantha 'Orange Glow'". Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Pyracantha 'Teton'". Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- "Plant poisoning -- Cyanogenic glycoside".
- "FDA Poisonous Plant Database".
- Questions about Pyracantha answered by Dr Jerry Parsons of the Texas Cooperative Extension (hosted by Texas A&M University)
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