Pyracantha spp.

Pyracantha spp.
[including scarlet firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea Roem.;
Chinese firethorn, Pyracantha fortuneana (Maxim.) Li = P. crenatoserrata (Hance) Rehd.; and
Formosa firethorn, Pyracantha koidzumii (Hayata) Rehder]

    Pyracantha species are extremely similar and sometimes difficult to unequivocally distinguish. The genus Pyracantha consists of about 10 species of evergreen shrubs that are native to Europe and Asia. Pyracantha koidzumii (Formosa firethorn) is spontaneous in Arkansas and a few other states. Pyracantha coccinea (scarlet firethorn) and P. fortuneana (P. crenatoserrata; Chinese firethorn) are also spontaneous to naturalized in the US, though not really known outside of cultivation in Arkansas (P. fortuneana, however, has been observed spontaneous in Arkansas as a few seedlings in the proximity of cultivated plants of the species). See key below to distinguish the Pyracantha species that would most likely be encountered in the Arkansas flora. In Arkansas, Pyracantha species somewhat resemble Sideroxylon lanuginosum (gum bumelia) and some species of Crataegus (hawthorn). Pyracantha species can be distinguished from S. lanuginosum by their smaller leaves, which are generally toothed, and their red, orange, or yellow fruits (the leaves of S. lanuginosum are larger with entire margins and this species produces black fruits). Pyracantha species can be distinguished from Crataegus by their evergreen habit and leafy thorns (Crataegus species are generally deciduous). Pyracantha species also superficially resemble Punica granatum (pomegranate), but can be distinguished by their densely pubescent foliage (when young) and inflorescences with numerous, small flowers and fruits. The foliage of Punica is glabrous and the flowers and fruits are large and solitary.

Key to species of Pyracantha that occur in Arkansas or have high potential to occur in Arkansas (click on individual species for additional information).
1. Inflorescence pubescent; leaves generally narrowly
elliptic with acute apices............................P. coccinea
1. Inflorescence nearly glabrous (the axes may be
pubescent); leaves oblong, obovate-oblong, or oblanceolate,
apices usually obtuse and often emarginate
(acutish in P. crenata)
  2. Leaves oblong to oblong-lanceolate, apices acutish and
  usually with a small bristle (mucronate)......P. crenata
  2. Leaves generally obovate-oblong, the apices obtuse and
  often emarginate
    3. Leaf margins entire.............................P. koidzumii
    3. Leaf margins toothed..........................P. fortuneana

Figures for Pyracantha (more than one species is represented in the series of photographs):
A-D. leaves;
E-G. flowers;
H-K. mature fruits [many species have orange fruits or varieties or forms with orange fruits (fig. K)];
L. close up of mature fruits;
M. heavy fruit crop;
N-P. thorns;
Q-T. bark;
U-Y. seedlings [figs. U and V show spontaneous seedlings of P. fortuneana; notice the trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata, seedling to the right in fig. V) (fig. X shows several spontaneous seedlings clustered together, possibly from a single fruit (the seedling in fig. Y is one seedling from that group)];
Z. plant in flower.

List of Naturalized Species
List of Spontaneous Species
List of Species with the Potential to Become Spontaneous or Naturalized
Dendrology Course


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