Firethorn, also known as pyracantha, is an evergreen shrub and is a part of the rose family. This evergreen shrub is native to Southeast Asia and Southeast Europe. The different firethorn species can be found in different parts of Africa, North America, Europe, and Asia. Firethorns are the kind of shrubs that thrive in fertile, well-drained, and slightly acidic soils that are exposed to partial shade or under the full sun. Most of the times, this shrub is cultivated because of the beauty it adds to a landscape.
Firethorns can grow up to 20 feet or 6 meters in height. Most of the times, the different species of firethorns have white flowers wither orange, yellow, or red berries. The beautiful flowers on this shrub blossom during the late springtime or the early summertime, whereas, the berries grow during the late summertime and mature during late autumn.
There are common opinions associated with firethorns, which get lots of people confused. This is why being aware of the different kinds of firethorn shrubs is important.
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Types of Firethorns
Pyracantha angustifolia is a species of evergreen shrubs that belongs to the rose family, as mentioned before. This type of firethorn is also known as slender firethorn, woolly firethorn, and narrow leaf firethorn. The flowers on this shrub are white, and they create round, small pomes. These pomes can either be red in color or orange. The fruits are astringent and bitter, which is why they are extremely inedible for humans to consume, but they are a great source of food for birds. The fruits, seeds, and leaves have hydrogen cyanide in them, which is what makes them bitter. The branches and stems have small, but sharp spines all over them.
The reason why this shrub is cultivated in gardens and yards is because of the ornamental value it adds. Moreover, it can be used as a home security hedge as well. Although the species is native to China, it is also found in certain areas of North America. This shrub is an invasive species in Hawaii.
Pyracantha atalantioides is another species of firethorns. This species is also known as Sichuan firethorn and Gigg’s firethorn. This species originated in Southern China and was later brought to North America. When they are fully grown, this shrub can grow up to 20 feet or 6 meters in height. It has petioles on it as well. The flowers on the Sichuan firethorn are white, and they blossom from March to June. The pomes fruits on this shrub are small and berry shaped. They also have a beautiful vibrant red color. The branches have long spines coming out of them. Just like the other species of firethorns, these ones are cultivated in gardens and parks for ornamental purposes. Sometimes, this shrub is also used in bonsai.
Pyracantha coccinea is a popular species of firethorn that has been cultivated in numerous gardens since the 16th century. This firethorn species is also known as red firethorn or scarlet firethorn. This plant has small white flowers, and it has the ability to produce bright, small red berry-looking fruits. The fruits are astringent and bitter, which is why eating them is not recommended. The fruits are often used in cooking to make jams, marmalade, jellies, and sauces.
This plant thrives in dry to medium moisture, well-drained and average quality soil that is either in the shade or under the full sun. It does even better in soils that are fertile and have sharp drainage. Scarlet firethorns have a good tolerance to clay soils and drought season. The scarlet firethorn plant was initially cultivated for its aesthetic beauty. During the late 18th century, walls and sidewalks were covered with this shrub in North American and England.
The Pyracantha crenatoserrata species of firethorns is a short shrub compared to the other. It is also known as Chinese firethorn, Roger’s firethorn, broad lead firethorn, and Yunnan firethorn. The Chinese firethorn shrub can only grow from 1 meter to 4 meters in height. The leaves of this shrub are narrow and oval (they resemble the shape of an egg) and they have rounded tips with margins. The leaves are dark green, hairless, glossy on one side and pale on the other. The flowers blossom in clusters. The small fruits are usually crimson in color, but when they are ripe, they turn dark red.
The flowers of this shrub are highly appreciated. They are in dense clusters at the tip of a short side branch. Each flower has 5 white petals with many stamens on hairy flower stalks. The peak time for these flowers to blossom is during spring or summer.
It is mainly cultivated because it has bright red (sometimes maroon and orange) pomes fruit on it that make it look beautiful. Like the other species, the flowers of this plant are also white. This shrub has the ability to go through warmer seasons, and it cannot tolerate the cold periods at all.
Pyracantha crenulata is another type of firethorn that is mainly cultivated as an ornamental plant. This shrub is also known as a Nepal firethorn, Nepalese firethorn, and Himalayan firethorn. Similar to the other species, the Nepal firethorn has beautiful white flowers with accompanying fruits. The leaves of this shrub are used for herbal teas, and the wood of the shrub is commonly used as walking sticks. Believe it or not, the wood of this shrub is quite strong, which is why it is a good option. The orange-red pomes fruit grown on this shrub is a food source for birds and a few other wildlife.
Pyracantha rogersiana is a flowering plant species that is native to western China. It is also referred to as the Asian firethorn. This evergreen shrub grows up to 4 meters or 13 feet (in height and width). The leaves of the Asian firethorn plant as narrow and glossy. There are a large number of white flowers on this plant along with small yellow pomes that are 8 mm in diameter. Although it can be used as a wall cover, mixed shrub border, and a hedge, this plant is commonly grown in yards, parks, and gardens to add aesthetic value. The cultivator of this plant is ‘Flava’ and has gained prestigious awards.
It is important to make sure no one is consuming the seeds of this plant because they are poisonous, and they can trigger nausea. In the case of ingesting, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Pyracantha koidzumii is an evergreen firethorn shrub that grows up to 4 meters or 13 feet. It also is known as Formosa firethorn. It is a hardy plant for zone 8. This evergreen shrub has leaves on it all year long, and the flowers are stalked up from May to July. The seeds ripen from September to November. It is a species known to attract different kinds of wildlife and bees pollinate from it as well. This shrub grows well in moist, sandy, loamy clay soils. It prefers to be planted in well-drained soils and loves growing in heavily clayed soil. The pH levels of the soil should be suitable. A great thing about this shrub is that it can grow well in no shade or semi-shade.
Are Firethorns Poisonous?
The thorns and the pomes on the firethorn shrub are likely to have poisonous tendencies. Most of the times, children and infants get attracted to the vibrant colored fruits, and they ingest them. Ingesting a firethorn fruit is not shocking because a bright colored ball can attract anyone’s eye. Luckily, these pomes are not considered extremely poisonous, but they do contain small amounts of a compound like cyanide. There have been a few studies performed on dogs and other mammals that showed how even when these fruits were consumed on a large scale, they did not show any sign of toxicity. Moreover, there are a few bird species that live on these fruits.
When looking at human reports, there has been no serious toxicity found. Whether it was ingested unintentionally by a toddler or a handful amounts of these fruits were eaten on purpose as a means of self-harm, nothing was found. The only risk of eating excessive amounts of this fruit is that it leads to gastrointestinal irritations like vomiting and nausea that only happen for 20 to 30 minutes. Choking hazards may occur if children try to swallow the pomes without biting into them. There are a few components in the firethorn fruits that are under examination because they could have possible potential health benefits. Currently, these fruits are not advised to eat for any kind of treatment.
If someone gets injured by the firethorn thorns, the affected area will become itchy, red, swollen, and it will be painful. But, these thorns are not toxic. All the –mentioned- symptoms are quite uncomfortable, but they are not dangerous or life-taking. Injuries by the firethorn thorn can be treated at home. All you will have to do is take a pair of tweezers and remove the thorn. Then, wash the injured area with soapy water and apply a topical, over the counter product made for inflammations and itching.
If the puncture wound gets injected, it is important to consult a health professional as soon as possible. The most dangerous circumstance is when the thorn gets to your joints. If it gets embedded into the joint, it causes tendon and membrane inflammations leading to stiffness, pain, reduced range of motions, and swelling. If a thorn is embedded, it is important to seek professional help for treatment and removal. When handling these shrubs, it is important to have eye protection and heavy gloves on so the chances of getting injured as reduced.
Taking Care of Firethorns
Firethorns are hardy and quite easy to take care of. When they are mature, they will provide you will trouble free pleasure for a long time.
Firethorn shrubs love basking under the sun because it allows them to produce lots of pomes and flowers. However, there are a few types that can tolerate the shade as well. To make sure your shrub is doing fine, all you have to do is give it a few hours of sun on a daily basis.
Because this plant is quite deep-rooted, it is drought hardy. When it matures and establishes, it will not need much watering. The only exception is if your shrub is growing alongside a wall because there will be no moisture provided to it. If it is in this kind of condition, it is important to water the shrub on a weekly basis thoroughly. Just make sure it does not become waterlogged.
Firethorn shrubs prefer growing in well-drained, fertile soil, but it can tolerate most kinds of soils. If you are planting a firethorn in clay, make sure there is lots of coarsely textured grit and rotted compost in it. Well established firethorns will flourish better in clay soils as compared to the younger ones.
Planting a Firethorn
The best time plant a firethorn is during the spring or autumn time. If you are planting your firethorn near a building or wall, make sure it is at least 20 inches or more away from the foundation. It is important to maintain this distance because the roots need room to grow and spread. Make sure you are not planting this shrub near a wall or corner of a fence because it will limit circulation, causing fungal diseases.
When planting a firethorn, you need to dig a hole that is two times bigger than the size of a root ball. Mix in a handful of fish, bone, blood, and other organic fertilizers. You can place a root ball, so you can make sure it is the same size and depth. water it properly the roots can settle in a while diminishing any air pockets.
When you have planted it, add a layer of mulch so weeds can be suppressed and moisture can be retained. Make sure the mulch is a few centimeters away from the stem so it is not too moist or it will rot. Although there are many individuals that plant firethorns in containers, you should know that they stay happier in soil. If you want to plant it in a container, it is important to choose a species that is smaller.
This is a brief on the different types of firethorns and how you can take care of this evergreen shrub. Firethorns are beautiful, and they can definitely add an aesthetic appeal to your landscape.