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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Pyracantha (Greek, pyr, fire, and akanthos, thorn; alluding to the bright red fruits). Rosaceae. Firethorn. Ornamental shrubs, grown chiefly for their bright red berry-like fruits and also for their white flowers and firm foliage. Thorny half-evergreen shrubs: lvs. alternate, short-petioled, narrow, crenulate or sometimes entire, stipulate: fls. in corymbs; sepals short, petals suborbicular, spreading; stamens 20, with yellow anthers; carpels 5, free on their ventral side, on their dorsal side connate with the calyx-tube about half or less: fr. a small pome with persistent calyx, red or orange, with 5 stones.—Three species, from S. E. Eu. to Cent. China and the Himalayas. The genus is closely allied to Cotoneaster but is easily distinguished by the crenulate lvs. and the thorny branches, also by the more conspicuous stipules. From Crataegus it is chiefly distinguished by the structure of the ovary, which contains 2 equal ovules in each cell, while in Crataegus each cell contains only 1 fertile ovule and a second imperfect and smaller one. The pyracanthas are usually small shrubs with rather small and narrow leaves and with white flowers in small corymbs followed by bright red or orange fruits. P. coccinea is hardy as far north as Massachusetts in sheltered positions. It is a handsome low evergreen shrub, especially when loaded with its bright red fruits, these remaining on the branches all winter if not eaten by birds, which are fond of them; it is also pretty in spring with its numerous corymbs of white flowers. It is well adapted for planting on rocky slopes or sunny rockeries or for borders of shrubberies; it may also be used for low ornamental hedges or for covering walls, as it stands pruning well and is easily trained into any desired shape. It thrives in almost any kind of well-drained soil, including limestone, and prefers sunny positions. Propagation by seeds or by cuttings of ripened wood in fall under glass, kept during the winter in a temperate greenhouse; also by layers and sometimes by grafting on hawthorn or cotoneaster.

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