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Pyracantha or firethorn (Pyracantha angustifolia)

Pyracantha or firethorn (Pyracantha angustifolia )

Pyracantha angustifolia flower Pyracantha angustifolia fruit

Family: Malaceae (apples etc)

Status:

Description:
Spiny evergreen shrubs, of which Pyracantha angustifolia is the most common on the south coast, to 4m high, with narrow-oval, sometimes toothed, leaves. Clusters of white flowers are followed by small (to 1cm) orange-red berries.

Preferred habitat and impacts:
Garden escapees, usually found close to towns or old farmhouses, often on roadsides under trees and fences. Birds may spread the seed some distance from habitation. Firethorn seeds have a chilling requirement before they will germinate, so it is more of a problem on the tablelands and the far south coast than further north.
Dense infestations will smother native vegetation, particularly in remnant grassy vegetation in farming areas. The spiny habit of this shrub makes it hard to move through infestations without painful encounters. It can act as the host for bacterial fireblight, a disease of apples and pears, and allow fruit fly to over-winter. Encourages the build up of pest species of native fruit-eating birds such as currawongs, which prey on the nestlings of more desirable bird species.

Dispersal:
Birds. Dumped garden waste with fruits on it.

Look-alikes:
Pyracantha could be confused with the weedy shrub or small tree, hawthorn, as both are spiny, and have similar red to orange berries. Hawthorn has broad, usually lobed leaves. Cotoneaster, also a weed, has similar berries but no thorns.

Crataegus monogyna. Cotoneasters flowers. Cotoneasters fruit

Control:
For large plants, cut and paint. Seedlings and smaller plants can be hand-pulled or dug out. Root suckers are likely to arise after cutting the parent plant, and these will need follow-up cutting and painting or spraying.