Herb: Firethorn

Latin name: Pyracantha coccinea

Synonyms: Cotoneaster pyracantha, Crataegus pyracantha, Mespilus pyracantha

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Edible parts of Firethorn:

Fruit - cooked. Used for making jellies, marmalade and sauces.

Description of the plant:


4 m
(13 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Woods and hedges.

Other uses of Firethorn:

Tolerant of trimming and of reasonable exposure, it can be grown as a hedge. It forms a very spiny barrier.

Propagation of the herb:

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 October or the following spring.

Cultivation of Firethorn:

Woods and hedges.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Pyracantha coccinea:

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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.