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What is a Firethorn?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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Firethorn, which is also known as Pyracantha, is an evergreen shrub from the Rosaceae family. There are seven species of firethorn, extending over a native range of southeastern Asia and Europe, and all these shrubs are notable for the vivid yellow, orange or scarlet berries that they produce. These berries, as well as the firethorn boughs, are popularly used in flower arrangements and decorations, particularly at Christmas time. The Pyracantha shrubs, with their dark green, narrow oval leaves and dense thorny structure, are popular as both ornamental plants and home security plants.

Pyracantha shrubs are propagated from seeds or stem cuttings; they are not particularly fast growers and it may be preferable to get established plants from a plant nursery. These shrubs are quite hardy and do not require much maintenance. They can grow in practically every type of soil, and can withstand both dry as well as frosty weather conditions. The plants require full sunlight, but can tolerate partial shade.

Apart from the fireblight disease, which many firethorn cultivars have been made resistant too, these shrubs are remarkably free from disease and pest attacks. It will help to add compost from time to time to promote healthy foliage growth. Lack of sufficient nitrogen and oxygen can make the leaves turn yellow and can hamper berry production.

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In gardens, the Pyracantha shrubs can be used as stand-alone garden plants, can be trained up against a fence or wall, or can be planted close together to form a hedge. Their very sharp, profuse thorns and dense foliage help make a firethorn hedge a quite impenetrable barrier against intruders. A firethorn hedge also provides a good shelter for birds to roost or nest in.

The firethorn shrub produces white flowers in May. The berries start to appear in summer and mature towards the end of autumn. They are not poisonous, although they do have a very bitter taste and so are not usually eaten raw. The berries are more edible when they are cooked, and are used to make a delicious Pyracantha jelly.

It may be necessary to prune the firethorn shrub from time to time, to prevent overgrowth or to give it a required shape. Pruning can help produce a more luxuriant and dense foliage growth, but, if done too often, will lower the berry production. It may be a good idea to leave pruning until the end of the berry season.

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Discuss this Article

anon161424
Post 1

My Firethorn produced berries the first year I had it (2008). The following spring a black fungus was on it (2009). That fall there were no berries(2009). The following spring (2010) it did bloom white flowers, but no berries were produced for the fall.

It has grown very well, I have not pruned it any. It looks healthy this spring (2011), but I am afraid it will not have berries again. Is here any hope? What should I do?

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