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23 November 2020 Biology of Invasive Plants 1. Pyracantha angustifolia (Franch.) C.K. Schneid
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Scientific Classification

Domain: Eukaryota

Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Spermatophyta

Subphylum: Angiospermae

Class: Dicotyledonae

Order: Rosales

Family: Rosaceae

Genus: Pyracantha

Species: angustifolia (Franch.) C.K. Schneid

Synonym: Cotoneaster angustifolius Franch.


Names and Generic Status

The genus Pyracantha (family Rosaceae) is commonly referred to as firethorn, pyracantha, or pyracantha bush. The name “pyracantha” is derived from the Greek words “pyr,” meaning fire, and “akanthos,” a thorn,” hence “fire-thorn,” describing the fiery red berries and sharp thorns typical of plants in this genus (Johnson et al. 1951). The genus is also known by other vernacular names; these include brandend-bos and vuurdoorn in Dutch; burning bush, Christ's thorn, evergreen thorn, everlasting thorn, fiery thorn, yellow firethorn, narrowleaf firethorn, slender firethorn, woolly firethorn, orange firethorn, and white thorn in English; arbre-de moise, buissonardent, epine-ardente, petit-corail, and pyracanthe in French; brennender-busch, feuerbusch, feuerdorn, feuerstraucher, and immergruner-weissdorn in German; geelbranddoring in Afrikaans; ponaponana in Sesotho; agazzino, marruca-nera, and prunogazzerino in Italian; zh i yè hu jí and 窄叶火棘 in Chinese; pirakanta uzkolistnaya in Russian; and tachibanamodoki, kamatuka, and kankasus in Japanese (Brako et al. 1995; Csurhes et al. 2016; Egolf and Andrick 1995; EPPO 2020; Kobisi et al. 2019; White et al. 2018).

The genus Pyracantha consists of 16 species of woody, evergreen, thorny shrubs (GBIF 2019; Plant List 2013; Serviss 2009). The species include: Pyracantha angustifolia (Franch.) C.K. Schneid, Sichuan firethorn [Pyracantha atalantioides (Hance) Stapf], scarlet firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea M. Roem.), Pyracantha crenatoserrata (Hance) Rehder, Nepalese firethorn [Pyracantha crenulata (D. Don) Roem.], Pyracantha crenulata-serrata Rehder, Pyracantha densiflora T.T. Yu, Chinese firethorn [Pyracantha fortuneana (Maxim.) Li], Pyracantha inermis J.E. Vidal, Formosa firethorn [Pyracantha koidzumii (Hayata) Rehder], and Pyracantha rogersiana (A.B. Jacks) Coltm.-Rog (Plant List 2013). To date, no critical overview of the genus has been published, but species in the genus have many synonyms, which is indicative of earlier confusion regarding the taxonomy of the Rosaceae (Plant List 2013). There are many cultivated hybrids and varieties of these species that vary mostly in plant size, fruit size, and fruit color (Egolf and Andrick 1995; Meyer et al. 1994; see also “Intraspecific Variation” and “Hybrids”).

Description and Account of Variation

Species Description

Pyracantha angustifolia is a dense upright evergreen shrub or small tree growing up to 6 m in height, with thorny branches (eFloras 2008); however, trees more than 6-m tall have been recorded in South Africa (Adams 2020). Stems are stiff with sharp-pointed woody spines that have leaves (Retief and Meyer 2017). The branchlets of the main stems are dense (Figure 1). When young, shoots are grayish-yellow in color and often tomentose, turning glabrous with age and changing in color to a dark purple (eFloras 2008). Leaves are alternatively arranged. They are dull dark green above and grayish in color beneath (Figure 2). The leaf blades are oblong to oblanceolate-oblong, ranging from 10 to 50 mm in length and between 4 and 12 mm in width. The leaves have a diagnostic notch