Pyracantha coccinea M. Roem.

scarlet firethorn, firethorn
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Pyracantha coccinea
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Pyracantha coccinea: Appearance of the shrub all year round; its shape is due to pruning

Appearance of the shrub all year round; its shape is due to pruningBranch with leaves 4 cm long x 1.4 cm wide with a sinuate margin and an acuminate apexDetailed view of the large thorns on the stemBranch with small flowers arranged in corymbiform cymesBranch with mature pomes 7 mm in diam.

Pyracantha: From "pyr" (Gr.) = fire and "ákantha" (Gr.) = thorn, because it is a thorny shrub with red fruits

coccineus, -a, -um: deep red, because of the colour of its fruits


Habit: Evergreen very thorny shrub 1-3(6) m tall, with an intricately branching pattern and reddish thorns on its stem.

Leaves: alternate, persistent, 1.5-4 cm long, simple, with small caducous stipules and a short petiole 3-9 mm long; blade elliptic to obovate, with an acute or obtuse acuminate apex and a crenate to sinuate margin, leathery, glossy.

Flowers: hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, epigynous, 6-9 mm in diam., pentamerous, arranged in pubescent corymbiform cymes formed by multiple flowers; calyx polysepalous; petals 5, 3-4 mm long, suborbicular, white; stamens c. 20; gynoecium syncarpous, 5-carpellate, with an inferior ovary and 5 styles.

Fruit: subglobose, depressed red, orange or yellowish pome 5-8 mm in diam. with 5 seeds.


It flowers in spring; fruits mature in autumn and persist into the winter.

Geographic origin

Native to W Asia and S Europe, up to the NE of the Iberian Peninsula.


It is often cultivated as an ornamental, especially to form showy hedges, given that its colourful fruits remain on the plant for several months, bringing colour to the garden in autumn or even winter.

It is very sensitive to fire blight, a serious disease caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora (Burrill) Winslow, which also affects fruit trees such as pear trees, apple trees and quince trees. The name of the disease is due to the appearance it gives young branches and sprouts, which look burnt when they are attacked by the disease.

It is easily propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings.

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