Pyracantha coccinea - Scarlet firethorn


"General: Medium to tall shrub, 1.5-6 m tall; stems much-branched, with leafy thorns, the young growth grey-hairy." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Leaves: Alternate, evergreen, lanceolate to narrowly elliptic, 2-5 cm long, finely blunt-toothed, smooth or sometimes sparsely hairy beneath when young." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Flowers: Inflorescence a small cluster, at the end of a lateral branchlet, of several to many, hairy-stalked flowers; corollas white, saucer-shaped, 7-8 mm across, the petals 5; calyces 5-lobed; ovaries inferior." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Fruits: Berry-like pomes (like miniature apples), nearly globe-shaped, bright orange-red, 5-6 mm wide; stones (nutlets) 5." [IFBC-E-flora]
Habitat / Range" "Mesic to moist waste places, fields and forest edges in the lowland zone; rare in SW BC (Vancouver Island); introduced from Europe." [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]

Hydrogen Cyanide

"Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death." [PFAF]

"Cyanosis, respiratory failure. The cyanogenic glycoside prunasin has been identified [1 ]. It is unlikely that cyanide poisoning would result from this plant. Poisoning is rarely encountered, although the large thorns in some species can cause injury. Birds, especially robins, have been observed by the author to have difficulty hopping and flying erratically after feeding on the fermenting berries in late summer" [DP3]

Pycrantha "can cause toxic symptoms, such as gastrointestinal effects" in dogs [Brown TRM]

Edible Uses


"Wild fruits may also be copper sources for the diet, providing interesting values often over 0.15 mg/100 g, as for example, Myrtus communis L., Rubus ulmifolius Schott, Pyracantha coccinea M. Roem., and Crataegus monogyna fruits" [Tardio MWEP]

Components (TLC): a-, b- andg-Carotenes, lycopine,
flavoxanthin, epoxide of xanthophyll [2]
Seeds + Pericarp
Oil, % on dry wt: 6.6 [3] [LLCEOPS]

"Prefers a good well-drained, moisture retentive loamy soil[1, 200]. Succeeds in any soil that is warm and not very heavy[11]. Another report says that it grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds on chalky soils[108]. Succeeds in sun or part shade[200] and also on a shady wall[28, 49], though it does not fruit so well in a shady position[200]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and reasonable exposure[200]. A very ornamental plant[1], there are a number of named varieties[11, 200]. Susceptible to scab and fireblight[11], especially when grown on acid sandy soils[182]. This species, especially the cultivar 'Lelandii', is notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Intolerant of root disturbance except when young[11]. A good bee plant[108]. Birds are particularly attracted to the fruit of this plant[200]." [PFAF]

"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. Remove all the fruit flesh since this can inhibit germination[200]. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification, sow it as early in the year as possible in a cold frame[113]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of almost mature wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, mid-August in a cold frame[78]. Pot up in October or the following spring[78]." [PFAF]

Hedge "Tolerant of trimming and of reasonable exposure, it can be grown as a hedge[49, 200]. It forms a very spiny barrier[200]." [PFAF]

"Similarly successful in the biomonitoring of Cd, Pb and Zn is other ornamental shrub Pyracantha coccinea (Akguc et al. 2008)." [SoilBio-30]


Cotoneaster pyracantha (L.) Spach
Crataegus pyracantha. Mespilus pyracantha.


Peter F. Zika

"Shrub, ± evergreen; thorns often leafy or branched. Leaf: simple, ± evergreen, margin generally rolled under, unlobed, entire to toothed; stipules early-deciduous; petiole short. Inflorescence: raceme or panicle at ends of short-shoots; pedicel bractlets 0. Flower: hypanthium bractlets 0; sepals persistent; petals white; stamens 20, fused at base; ovary 1/2-inferior, chambers 5. Fruit: pome, drupe-like, ± spheric or depressed-spheric, open at top, stones 5, free, 2-ovuled.
10 species: Mediterranean, Asia. (Greek: fire thorn, from fruit color, thorns) Fruiting Jun–Apr." [Jepson]

"Pyracantha (with thorns) and Cotoneaster (without thorns),
commonly grown in gardens. They are becoming more and more abundant in areas that otherwise may seem to
be natural. They have nearly round, red or orange-red fruits, mostly about 8-10 mm long. Birds make use of the
berries and thus serve as agents of dispersal." [PWOBC]



Cultivation & Propagation

Acclimation (Hardening) to Low Temperature: "Acclimation in Pyracantha was not controlled by red irradiation." [McKell BUS]

"The laboratory-based observations that Ni deficiency impacts a diversity of plant species has recently been verified in a diverse number of perennial species (Carya, Betula, Pyracantha) growing in the acidic low-nutrient soils of southeastern United States (2)." [Barker HPN]

"Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.) and firethorns (Pyracantha spp.) have thorns above the leaf, showing that the thorn is a modified branch, grown out from the bud. Growth next year can still take place because these trees cunningly grow extra buds beside the thorns. Spines and thorns are expensive things to produce and will only be grown where they are needed. " [ARA V12.3]

Pest & Diseases



Page last modified on Thursday, August 1, 2019 5:24 PM