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Scarlet Firethorns

Scarlet Firethorns is July's plant of the month


Scarlet Firethorns

Botanical name:

Pyracantha spp.


Pyracantha (from Greek pyr "fire" and akanthos "thorn", hence firethorn) is a genus of large, thorny evergreen shrubs in the rose family, with common names firethorn or pyracantha. They are native to an area extending from Southwest Europe east to Southeast Asia. They resemble and are related to Cotoneaster, but have serrated leaf margins and numerous thorns (Cotoneaster is thornless).

The plants reach up to 4.5 m tall. Leaves are small and oval. The seven species have small white flowers which have many stamens. The fruit is either red, orange, or yellow berries. The flowers are produced during late spring and early summer; the berries develop from late summer and mature in late autumn.

Species of Pyracantha are valuable ornamental plants, grown in gardens for their decorative flowers and fruit, often very densely borne. The thorns are easily able to puncture human skin, and when successful, the piercing causes a slight inflammation and severe pain. Their dense thorny structure makes them particularly valued in situations where an impenetrable barrier is required. They are also good shrubs for a wildlife garden, providing dense cover for roosting and nesting birds, summer flowers for bees and an abundance of berries as a food source.

Plant use:

The fruit can be made into jelly. The fruits persist significantly into winter, which makes them valuable bird food. Pyracanth berries can be dispersed into natural areas, allowing plants to invade natural communities. Orange firethorn (Pyracantha Angustifolia) is considered to be a weed or potential ("sleeper") weed in several states or territories of Australia, including Victoria, the ACT and New South Wales. As a consequence, importation and propagation are prohibited in some parts of Australia.

Where can Scarlet Firethorn be seen in the Parklands?

Eastern side of the Column Garden

This information was curated by a team of passionate Centennial Parklands volunteers. Find out more about our volunteer programs here.