T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Pyracantha angustifolia (Slender firethorn)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Pyracantha
Species: P. angustifolia
Binomial name: Pyracantha angustifolia
Synonyms: Cotoneaster angustifolia
Common name: Slender firethorn, Woolly firethorn, Narrowleaf firethorn,

 Pyracantha berries are mildly poisonous as their seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides and can cause mild  gastro-intestinal problems when eaten raw in large quantities.


Pyracantha angustifolia is a species of shrub in the rose family that originates from south-western China.
This shrub is cultivated and grown in yards and gardens as an ornamental plant and has be used to make hedges for home security. It is an invasive species in many countries including New Zealand where it can be found from Northland to Nelson in the South Island.
It is a large spiny shrub growing 2-5 m tall and spreading up to 5 m across. The stems which have sharp spines are densely hairy and grey or whitish when young, turning reddish-brown or darker grey as they mature. Short side-branches are formed off the main branches and these bear most of the elongated entire leaves. The upper leaf surfaces are dark green, almost hairless and shiny, while their undersides are densely hairy and whitish. The stems and branches have sharp spines.
Its five petalled white flowers are 8-12 mm and are borne in dense clusters of up to 30 flowers during spring and early summer. These produce small round pomes that turn from green to yellow, orange to red in colour as they mature. The leaves, fruit and seeds contain hydrogen cyanide which gives them a bitter taste making them inedible for humans, but they are a food source for birds.
This species invades open scrublands, forests, urban bushland, waterways and grasslands in temperate areas. It is spread by birds that eat its colourful fruit and also by water and the dumping of garden waste.