Australia > All Weeds > Firethorn

Firethorn

Pyracantha spp.

Origin: Native of Asia

Africa

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Branch by Maggie

Family: Malaceae (often included in Rosaceae).

Known Hazards: 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.

Habitat: Thickets on slopes and roadsides.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Evergreen shrubs to 4 m high. Leaves lanceolate to ovate. Fruit maturing red or orange.
Flowers: In white clusters. Flowers mostly in spring and summer.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by spines on branches; flowers with 5 white petals and numerous stamens; fruit a globeshaped pome (false fleshy fruit, an apple is a pome).

Dispersal: Spread by seed that is mostly bird or water dispersed.

Confused With: Pyracantha species are often confused with each other. See taxonomic texts for detailed distuishing features. Cotoneaster species are similar but lack thorns.



Edible Uses

Fruit. No more details are given but the fruit is unlikely to be that inspiring, particularly when it is said that this is the least interesting fruit of the genus for birds!. The fruit is about 5 - 6mm in diameter.

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

A fairly wind-tolerant shrub, it can be used in shelterbelt plantings.

Notes: Commonly planted as ornamentals. There are at least 5 naturalised Pyracantha species in Australia. The most widespread is Orange Firethorn, Pyracantha angustifolia, which has leaves that are hairy on the lower surface. Other locally common species are Nepal Firethorn, Pyracantha crenulata, Pyracantha rogersiana and Pyracantha fortuneana. The other naturalised species is Pyracantha koidzumii. Firethorns are mostly naturalised around habitation, paticularly in urban woodlands and forests. Plants shade out native species and thorny thickets restrict access to invaded areas.

References:

     


Fruits. Image by e.phelt

Flowers by Quite Adept

 

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