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What Is Pyracantha?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Pyracantha, also known as firethorn, is a variety of large evergreen shrub with thorns. Though they are also used as stand-alone features in yards and other landscaping, they are most popular for use as a colorful barrier plant and occasionally to provide additional security alongside a building, wall or fence. They have orange, red, or yellow berries. The flowers are either white or cream. Most pyracanthas grow to approximately 20 feet (6 meters).

The shrub produces flowers in late spring and early summer. The berries appear in clusters in late summer and early fall. Pyracantha shrubs are generally hardy and have a dense growth. They can survive for several years.

Pyracantha shrubs originally came from southeastern Asia and Europe. There are seven different species, many of which are native to China. The bush is also a popular element of several cultivars, which are plants bred together for specific characteristics, and hybrids around the world.

Chinese varieties of pyracanthas include crenatoserrata, angustifolia, and atalantioides. Crenatoserrata is one of the shortest of the species and is native to central China. The angustifolia species comes from southwest China and has bright orange or red berries. Atalantiodes are frequently used in bonsai and come from southern China.

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The scarlet firethorn species of the shrub, scientifically known as coccinea, is the version most common in Europe. It spreads from the southern regions of the continent to west Asia. The shrub has been cultivated in these areas for centuries.

Other species of the shrub are spread across Asia. There is a crenulata species in the Himalayas. Pyracanthas rogersiana of Yunnan has red and yellow berries. The koizumii species in Taiwan does not thrive as well in nature as the other species, due to an increasing loss of habitat.

Pyracantha plants thrive in warm southern climates of the Northern Hemisphere and can struggle to survive in cold or damp conditions. These shrubs fare best when protected from harsh winds. It is also important to give them ample drainage.

The more sun pyracanthas receive, the higher the proliferation of blooms will be. Some will develop so many blooms that the plant's foliage will be concealed. Once it has bloomed, the bush should be lightly pruned in order to provide optimum conditions for the growth of berries. The fruit usually lasts for several months. It is often thinned a great deal by birds that are attracted to the bright colors and firm fruit.

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