פירקנתה אדומה – Pyracantha coccinea

06 Sep

September is here, and most of the plants have already finished blooming.They flowered in the spring or summer, and now they bear fruit. Some of the fruits are beautiful, so we should like to call your attention to an evergreen shrub with noticeable beautiful fruit: the Pyracantha coccinea.

The Pyracantha originates from southern Europe to the Black Sea region and north-western Iran. In its natural habitat, the Pyracantha is an evergreen shrub. But in extremely cold winters, or when planted in colder regions – it adapts to the climate, and sheds its leaves during the winter. Plants that adapt their deciduousness to the climate are called semi-evergreens.

The Pyracantha is a shrub from the Rosaceae family – a family with many distinguished members, such as the roses, and fruit-trees such as apples, pears, hawthorns, cherries, almonds and many others. In springtime, the Pyracantha is covered with magnificent white flowers, during the summer, fruit develop on the shrub. Towards the end of summer and during the autumn, they ripen and turn red, and the entire shrub is coated with an impressive cover. The fruit are adapted for seed dispersal by birds, which are drawn to the orange-red fruit, and the fruit timing is synchronized with the birds’ migration season. Migrating song-birds are drawn to the orange-red fruit, they eat them and disperse the seeds. The Pyracantha does not shed its fruit, rather they remain on the branches when ripe, so that the birds can easily reach them.

The beauty of this shrub – the beautiful white flowers, and the orange-red fruit – have attracted gardeners at least since the 16th century. Being a hardy plant – both water-saving and able to grow in a variety of soils, including nutrients-poor ones – it has become common in gardening, and has been spread throughout the world since the 18th century.

The Pyracantha is a thorny and dense shrub, so that in addition for its being used for its ornamental qualities, it has been used for hedges to prevent passage.

The name “Pyracantha” comes from Greek: “Pyra” is fire, and “Acantha” – a thorn. And indeed, this is a thorny shrub that when in fruition – looks like a flame. The common name, Firethorn, is a direct translation of the scientific one.

The Pyracantha’s fruit are considered edible, even though the fruit of other species of this genus contain hydrogen cyanide, like the kernel of apricots or wild almonds. This substance gives the fruit a very bitter taste, and if eaten in  large quantities  is harmful. That is why the fruit is not eaten fresh. Nevertheless, it is used to prepare jams.

Come and see the Pyracantha coccinea in the European section of the Botanical Garden, in the eastern side of the garden, above the coffeeshop.

Author: Yael Orgad, September 2018

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