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Firethorn is a large spiny shrub growing 2-5m tall and spreading up to 5m across. Its stems are densely hairy and grey or whitish when young, turning reddish-brown or darker grey as they mature. Short side-branches are formed off the main branches which bear most of the elongated entire leaves. The upper leaf surfaces are dark green, almost hairless and shiny, while their undersides are densely hairy and whitish. Its white flowers (8-12mm across) have five petals and are borne in dense clusters. Its small berry-like fruit (5-9mm across) turn yellow or orange when ripe.
Competes with and replaces indigenous species. Dense stands are virtually impenetrable and restrict access to grazing by domestic and wild animals. Indigenous birds might neglect the dispersal of indigenous plant species in preference for the fruits of this alien species.
Flowers generally appear in spring and summer and fruits develop from late summer to autumn. Berries are produced in large numbers with up to 1000 seeds per square metre of soil surface recorded. Each fruit contains five seeds. Firethorn reproduces entirely from seed. Short seed retention in bird gut. Winter fruit more sought after by birds.