Scientific: Pyracantha hybrids (a complex scene of horticultural hybrids)
Common: Called 'firethorn' or just plain 'pyracantha'.

More Taxonomy: The five most popular species are scarlet firethorn (P. coccinea), Formosa firethorn (P. koidzumii), Roger's firethorn (P. rogersiana), Chinese firethorn (P. fortuneana or P. crenatiserrata), and narrow-leaf firethorn (P. angustifolia).

Family: Rosaceae (rose family)
Origin: Eurasia. Collectively, the five species of Pyracantha  are broadly distributed from the eastern Mediterranean region and central Europe across to Asia to China and Taiwan (formerly Formosa).

Pronounciation: Pie-ra-CAN-tha SPEE-shees

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 4-24
USDA 7-11

Landscape Use: Varied uses depending on cultivar and growth habit ranging from ground cover, espalier, topiary, informal hedge, background, winter and spring accent, barrier plant, to landscape topiary. Pyracantha can even be used as a colorful landscape bowling ball (a metaphysical certainty once the horticultural clods of Phoenix take over a maintenance account).

Form & Character: Evergreen, stiff and upright to spreading 

Growth Habit: From prostrate and spreading to rounded or columnar, depending on cultivar. Growth rate of vigorous cultivars is very rapid and can reach 20 feet in height.

Foliage/texture: P. coccinea has ovate leaves that taper to an acuminate tip, serrate to dentate, to 1.5 inches long when mature, new foliage can be densely pubescent. P. koidzummii, has lighter green leaves, oblanceolate to espatulate to 2 inches long, leaf tips are rounded to slightly emarginate. Both species often have the presence of a stipular thorn on a smooth dark brown stem and are plants of medium texture.

Flowers & fruits: Corymbs of small white perfect flowers on terminal meristems in spring followed by clusters of green turning orange to bright red fruits (fruits are actually small pomes, not berries as commonly referenced) in fall and early winter. Fruit color of P. coccinea is scarlet red, 1/4 inch in diameter. Fruit color of P. koidzummii is orange-scarlet, 1/4 inch in diameter with head of fruit somewhat flattened.

Seasonal color: White flowers in Spring and orange or red fruit in late fall/early winter.

Temperature: Tolerant

Light: Full sun, but no full western exposures.

Soil: Iron chlorosis in highly alkaline, wet soils is the biggest problem in Phoenix.

Watering: Mostly regular irrigations in southwest deserts. Little to no supplemental water needed along California coastal valleys or in the southeast US.

Pruning: Selectively remove off new growth in mid spring after flower and again in early to mid-fall to reveal and expose fully the fruits for late fall and early winter accent display. Also be careful to selectively remove any growth of the vigorous seedling rootstock in the case of grafted cultivars.

Propagation: Softwoodor semi-hardwood stem cuttings, cultivars are usually grafted onto vigorous seedling.

Disease and pests: The bacterial disease fireblight is pyracantha's biggest problem (except in arid cities such as Phoenix where fireblight is rare). Aphids and spider mites also occur.

Additional comments: There are many Pyracantha hybrids and cultivars of varied form and fruit color. Because of the complexity of the hybridation of the five species, one will need to resort to specifying firethorn or Pyracantha in the landscape by cultivar name. Desirable hybrids and cultivated varieties include:

Myth buster: One of the myths about firethorn is that the fruits are poisonous. If you've ever watched birds feast on firethorn fruits, then perhaps you have wondered if they were indeed poisonous. Birds will simply devour the delicious ripe fruit and might become intoxicated if the fruit is over ripe (containing a bit of alcohol). Ingestion of over ripe fruit will cause birds to do all sorts of weird, stupid stuff such as fly into windows, drop off perches and power lines, or chirp endlessly.

The fact is, Pyracantha fruits (little apples) are entirely edible and there is at least one recipe I've discovered for Pyracantha jelly. If you have a surplus of Pyracantha berries in the fall/winter and would just as soon the birds did not rob you of them, then you might enjoy the taste of Pyracantha jelly. It is quite tasty, much like apple jelly in appearance and flavor.