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Common Name: Firethorn
Pyracantha coccinea is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 4.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials.
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.
S. Europe. Occasionally found more or less naturalized in Britain[
Woods and hedges[
Prefers a good well-drained, moisture retentive loamy soil[
]. Succeeds in any soil that is warm and not very heavy[
]. Another report says that it grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds on chalky soils[
]. Succeeds in sun or part shade[
] and also on a shady wall[
], though it does not fruit so well in a shady position[
]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and reasonable exposure[
A very ornamental plant[
], there are a number of named varieties[
Susceptible to scab and fireblight[
], especially when grown on acid sandy soils[
]. This species, especially the cultivar 'Lelandii', is notably resistant to honey fungus[
Intolerant of root disturbance except when young[
A good bee plant[
]. Birds are particularly attracted to the fruit of this plant[
Fruit - cooked. Used for making jellies, marmalade and sauces[
Tolerant of trimming and of reasonable exposure, it can be grown as a hedge[
]. It forms a very spiny barrier[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[
]. Remove all the fruit flesh since this can inhibit germination[
]. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification, sow it as early in the year as possible in a cold frame[
]. 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[
]. Pot up in early autumn or the following spring[