My firethorn bushLike any other plant addict, I'm attracted to all plants, especially those with bright colored flowers or fruits. When I first saw this beautiful bush, with luscious leaves and lots of orange berry clusters, I knew I had to have one. I didn't know what it was, nor did I know its name, but I liked it and that was enough. The opportunity came soon, in a gas station, while I was filling the tank of my car. It was fall and the huge bush they had there was full of orange berries. I was stunned and after admiring it for a few seconds, I quickly grabbed a small stem and brought it home with me. I put it in a glass of water to root and, after two years, the stem grew into a beautiful bush which repaid me with its first two clusters of flowers and then, of orange berries. I had been waiting for that moment eversince I took the stem from the gas station. I was in awe!

Just about the time my bush had its first orange berries growing, I watched a TV show about plants and they were talking about the sea-buckthorn and its miraculous properties. I was amazed to see how similar was the sea-buckthorn to my shrub, and the berries too, yet somehow different. I searched on the internet to see if my shrub was really a sea-buckthorn or not. After some research, I've found out that the sea-buckthorn has seven species. One of them, Hippophae rhamnoides, looked identical to my shrub on two websites: one of a nursery and the other one of some doctors offering medical advice. Bingo! This was what I wanted to find. I was so happy and excited to know that my plant was a sea-buckthorn!

Firethorn fruitsI had heard about the sea-buckthorn's amazing properties in treating and preventing the flu, cold, infections, heart disease, stress, tumors and liver disease. The discovery of having a sea-bucktorn shrub in my garden, from which I could harvest lots of berries with such healing properties - not to mention its beauty - was incredible. I was now anxious to eat those berries and feel the miraculous powers of the plant for myself. Since I was convinced it was a sea-buckthorn, I picked up the berries and mixed them with a few spoons of honey, then started to take one teaspoon of the mix every morning. This is how they said it should be done in order to prevent the flu during winter. I was very serious and thorough about it and, since no one else in the family wanted to have it, I made the "sacrifice" of taking the "medicine". The treatment was short, only for a week, because that much honey and berries mix I had, but I already felt the miraculous powers over me - or so I thought.

Firethorn bush bloomingSoon after finishing "the treatment", I was talking to a friend and word came about the sea-buckthorn. She told me her shrubs never bloomed in four years since she has had them, not even once. She said she had two shrubs, one male and one female, for reproduction, but no results yet. I said I had never heard of such a thing and that my shrub bloomed and made berries, even though I only had one shrub. I told her I would research more about the plant and that is what I did.

I was surprised to find out that what my friend told me was true and that my shrub wasn't really a sea-buckthorn. I didn't know yet what it was, but I was now sure that it wasn't what I thought. No need to say how dissapointed I was and somehow, frightened - I ate its fruits!!!!! More research cleared the matter up for Firethorn flower cluster and leavesme. I've found out out that those berries were from Pyracantha, an ornamental shrub which, luckily, has edible fruits. I found only one Romanian website, but more American websites which shared the same information about Pyracantha, also called the firethorn bush. The fruits look similar to the sea-buckthorn's fruits, but they are different and, the most important thing, are edible. They say the seeds are poisonous if eaten too many at once, because they contain a small amount of cyanide or cyanogenic glycosides.[1] Imagine that! And I ate about 2 tablespoons of fruits with seeds and all, but here I am, all alive and well. I must confess I was lucky my bush didn't fruit more that year. But wait, they don't say you can die of too many pyracantha berries, you can just have a mild gastro-intestinal problem, which I didn't have at all, lucky me.[1]

After discovering the true identity of my shrub, I've researched more about both Hyppophae rhamnoides and Pyracantha. The difference between the two shrubs is huge. One look at their flowers is enough: while Pyracantha has white small flowers, gathered in clusters, Hyppophae has unusual flowers, male and female type, growing on the stalk, each on different plants. The firethorn's fruits are growing in clusters and they are pomes. This fall I bought sea-buckthorn fruits from the market and I could compare them with the firebush fruits I have in my garden. On a first look, the sea-buckthorn fruits are smaller, oval and luscious, while the firethorn fruits are twice as big, round and opaque, looking like a small apple.

Firethorn berries Sea-buckthorn fruits

Opening them both, the sea-buckthorn fruit is juicy, while the firethorn fruit is fleshy.

Sea-buckthorn fruit opened Firethorn fruit opened

Sea-buckthorn and firethorn fruits

Sea-buckthorn seeds are bigger than firethorn seedsThe seeds are also different: the firethorn's are smaller than the sea-buckthorn's. All in all, the two shrubs have visible differences between them, although the orange fruits might look similar in a picture or from afar. The medicinal properties are definitely different too, because the sea-buckthorn has supposed healing properties. I am about to find out - for real, this time - because I made a huge batch of sea-buckthorn fruits and honey mix and a juice with honey for my grandson, to prevent cold and flu for all in my family.

Sea-buckthorn fruitsAs for the firethorn fruits I am about to pick up from my bush, I'll make a jelly with them. Some websites recommend a jelly recipe made with the fruits' juice and pulp, well strained after boiled and crushed. I'm confident that now my information is accurate, since it comes from three different sources, one of them being the Texas University of Agriculture. And, just to be sure that no one gets fooled again, I posted requests for the two websites' administrators, to change the wrong pictures with the good ones. I wouldn't want to let this happen to other people too!

Important disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for your general information only. The author is not attempting to give medical advice or engage in the practice of medicine. You should consult your physician or local treatment center before pursuing any course of treatment.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyracantha