Pyracantha coccinea or Scarlet Firethorn is a European species. It has fewer thorns. It was cultivated since the 16th century. The name Pyracantha is a combination of words from Greek meaning “fire” and “thorn”, therefore the common name Firethorn.
Pyracantha coccinea is native to Southwest Europe. It is part of the Rosaceae family of plants. This plant was introduced to the United States in the 18th Century. It is a hardy, evergreen shrub that produces a lot of red berries for autumn and winter.
The fruits of Pyracantha coccinea are pomes. They are a bit bitter, but similar to apples or cherries where the pulp is safe to eat yet the seeds are mildly poisonous and could be harmful in large quantities, especially if consumed raw. However, it is possible to make a jam from the fruit and remove the seeds. Birds feed on the fruit especially in cold winters where other types of food are scarce.
A variety called Pyracantha coccinea ‘lalandei’ was cultivated to produce yellow berries.
How to grow Pyracantha coccinea:
Pyracantha coccinea does well in the sun or partial shade. It flowers usually late spring and summer, mostly in June. It will produce more berries in the sun than in shade. Plant Pyracantha coccinea in fertile soil but well-drained. If you are planting by a wall, as a wall shrub, give it some room, at least 50cm or 20in. Propagate by cuttings in a moist environment with light, not direct sun. It could take up to 10 weeks for roots to form.
Pyracantha coccinea produces a lot of interest in the landscape all year round, and this variety with fewer thorns is easier to maintain and prune. Prune them in mid-summer if you are growing them as a hedge. Otherwise, in early spring you can trim off any dead branches and shape them. Watch for scab or leaf blight. Pyracantha coccinea can also be trained as a climber or a wall shrub.