Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Broad-leaved Firethorn (Pyracantha fortuneana) is an erect, thorny shrub invading open woodlands, forests, urban bushland and riparian areas in south-eastern Australia.
  • It forms dense thickets that can displace native species and alter community composition in native bushland.
  • Its current distribution is widespread, but scattered and localised.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Broad-leaf Firethorn Pyracantha fortuneana [as Pyracantha crenatoserrata ] is an evergreen thorny erect shrub that grows to 3–4 m in height. Lateral branchlets from the main branches form short spines. The twigs or young growth has some brown appressed long hairs. The leaves have a petiole (leaf-stalk 0.2-0.5 cm long sometimes to 1 cm long. Leaves are obovate (shaped like a section through the long axis of an egg and attached by the thinner end) to obovate-oblong, 2.5–6 cm in length and 1–2 cm wide. The upper leaf surface is glossy and dark green, with both upper and lower surfaces hairless. The leaf margins are finely serrated with incurved teeth, and the leaf tip is obtuse (rounded) to slightly emarginate (with a small indentation at the tip) or sometimes shortly apiculate (with a small sharp point at the tip). The leaf-base is cuneate (wedge-shaped).

The white flowers are in loose clusters 3–4 cm in diameter, borne on short shoots, to 3 cm long. The peduncles (stalk of the flower-cluster), pedicels (individual flower-stalk) and calyx (the green outer whorl of a flower) are glabrous (without hairs) to slightly hairy, and if slightly hairy can be similar in fruit. The pedicels (flower-stalks) are about 1 cm long.  The white flowers are about 1 cm in diameter. 

The fruit (pomes) are orange-red to dark red, rounded and slightly flattened on both ends (sub-globose), 6–8 mm across (Harden & Rodd 1990; Gu & Spongberg 2003; Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Broad-leaf Firethorn contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Broad-leaf Firethorn is a weed of open woodlands, forests, urban bushland, grasslands and riparian areas. This species occurs mostly in temperate and sub-tropical regions (Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Broad-leaf Firethorn is similar to two common weedy Pyracantha species found in Australia. It can be distinguished from Orange Firethorn (P. angustifolia) by its serrated leaf margins, and from Scarlet Firethorn (P. coccinea) by its obtuse to slightly emarginate leaf tips (Navie 2004).

Broad-leaf firethorn (Pyracantha fortuneana) has relatively broad leaves (10–20 mm wide) with almost entire or slightly toothed (i.e. crenulate) margins. These leaves have rounded tips and undersides that are hairless (i.e. glabrous). Its mature fruit are bright red in colour and are usually hairless (i.e. glabrous).

Broad-leaf Firethorn can also be distinguished by the following differences:

Orange firethorn (Pyracantha angustifolia) has relatively narrow leaves (5–13 mm wide) with entire margins. These leaves have rounded tips and undersides that are densely covered with white hairs (i.e. tomentose). Its mature fruit are yellow to deep orange in colour and are usually covered in white hairs (i.e. pubescent).

Scarlet firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea) has relatively broad leaves (10–20 mm wide) with finely toothed (i.e. crenulate) margins. These leaves have pointed tips and undersides that are hairless (i.e. glabrous) or slightly hairy (i.e. puberulent). Its mature fruit are bright red or scarlet in colour and are usually hairless (i.e. glabrous).

Nepalese firethorn (Pyracantha crenulata) has relatively narrow leaves (6–10 mm wide) with sharply toothed (i.e. serrate) margins. These leaves have pointed tips and undersides that are hairless (i.e. glabrous). Its fruit are bright red or dark red in colour and are usually hairless (i.e. glabrous).

Roger's firethorn (Pyracantha rogersiana) has relatively narrow leaves (5–10 mm wide) with bluntly toothed (i.e. crenate) margins. These leaves have rounded tips and undersides that are hairless (i.e. glabrous). Its fruit are yellow to reddish-orange in colour and are usually hairless (i.e. glabrous).

Firethorns (Pyracantha species) can also be confused with the Cotoneasters (Cotoneaster species) and Hawthorns (Crataegus species). Cotoneasters can be distinguished from Firethorns by the lack of spines on their stems, and Hawthorns can be distinguished by their deeply lobed leaves (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Broad-leaf Firethorn is mainly a weed a native ecosystems that forms dense thickets shading out native species and restricting movement of humans and animals. 

Agriculture: Broad-leaf Firethorn does not invade crops or pastures but is a potential host for bacterial fire blight, a serious pest of apples and pears.

Native ecosystems:  Broad-leaf Firethorn can form dense thickets that displace native species and significantly alter the composition of bushland areas by shading out shrub species and other low lying plants. The dense thorny thickets can also prevent access to invaded areas (Thorp & Wilson 1998). It may also impact on seed bank composition and subsequent regeneration of original vegetation after its removal. It can also impede the growth and regeneration of overstorey species (Muyt 2001; Auckland Regional Council 2008; Giantomasi et al. 2008). In central Argentina, Orange Firethorn can alter understorey micro-climates in such a way that they encourage the growth of exotic overstorey tree species rather than native ones (Tecco et al. 2006).

Human impacts: The sharp thorns of Broad-leaf Firethorn  like other Firethorn species can cause injury to humans and other animals.

How does it spread?

Broad-leaf Firethorn reproduces via seeds that are commonly dispersed by birds that eat the fruit. The seeds can also be spread by flowing water, and other animals (e.g. foxes or other small mammals), or in dumped garden waste (Navie 2004). A mature bush can produce about one million seeds each year (Groves et al. 2005).

What is its history in Australia?

It is unsure as to when Broad-leaf Firethorn was first introduced to Australia, but it was probably introduced as a garden ornamental, as it is commonly used as a hedge (Craigie 2008 pers.comm.).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: As with other Pyracantha species, smaller plants of Broad-leaf Firethorn can be hand pulled or dug out, and the area mulched to prevent germination. Large areas should be targeted for control to prevent reseeding by birds, and bare areas should be replanted with dense ground cover to minimise seedling growth (Auckland Regional Council 2008).  Grazing in degraded paddocks and other vegetation provides some level of control but is limited. Burning will not kill plants as they normally resprout. 

Chemical control: A range of herbicides and application methods are used for Firethorn species. Larger plants can be treated with drill and fill or cut and swab methods, which are best applied in spring or summer before the fruit develop. Plants less than 2 m tall can be sprayed with selective or non-selective herbicides (Muyt 2001).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Broad-leaf Firethorn flowers during spring and summer, and produces fruit from late summer to autumn (Gu & Spongberg 2003).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Broad-leaf Firethorn has a widespread but scattered and localised distribution in south-eastern Australia. It is commonly found in sub-coastal regions of New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory South Australia and Victoria (Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Broad-leaf Firethorn is native to south-western China (Fujian, Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang) (Gu & Spongberg 2003).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Pyracantha fortuneana 

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Photinia crenatoserrata Hance
  • Photinia fortuneana Maxim.
  • Pyracantha crenato-serrata Rehder (incorrect spelling)
  • Pyracantha crenatoserrata (Hance) Rehder 

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Chinese Firethorn, Red Pyracantha, Broad Leaf Firethorn, Chinese Firethorn, Firethorn, Pyracantha

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