Fire Flower

by Jessica Haywood
July 2008

You can close your eyes and be there in your mind: It’s July 4, a warm, muggy night. A great mass of people comes from all over to gather along the Cape Fear River and look up at the sky, which is bursting with bright, explosive colors and shapes. The Fourth is all about independence, of course, but it’s the fireworks that bring the message home.

The Battleship Blast along Wilmington’s riverfront is the state’s largest choreographed fireworks display, and just to our south, Southport’s North Carolina Fourth of July Festival is the official state celebration. At Wrightsville, fireworks are illegal, but locals and visitors alike still take in the spectacle. Many sit on their decks and enjoy the panorama exploding in the sky all along the coastline. From WB, the displays are visible as far away as Southport.

But what, exactly, will everyone be looking at? What are these rad rockets called? Well, first of all, fireworks are often named after flowers. Yes, flowers. "Fireworks are made to emulate and re-create flowers in the sky," says Lansden Hill Jr., president of Pyro Shows Inc., the company responsible for Battleship Blast. In Japanese, in fact, the word for firework is hanabi. The translation is fire flower, which rhymes, coincidentally, with firepower. Get ready for the Fourth, y’all.

Here are 10 classes of fire flowers you’re sure to see
on that warm and muggy Fourth

1 | Peony

A spherical break of colored stars that lasts for 2-3 seconds. Peonies are the most commonly seen shell type at shows.

2 | Chrysanthemum

A hard, spherical break of colored stars. It’s similar to a peony, except it leaves a visible gold trail of sparks. It has a golden petal with colored tips. Some are color-changing, with twinkling crystals. The outer ring and inner ring of the firework change at the same time, but they go to opposite colors.


3 | Dahlia

This shell is different from the first two in that it is not supposed to break in as round a shape. Some dahlia shells are cylindrical to allow for larger stars. The stars are fewer but much larger, so a dahlia is a much thicker-petaled f lower. The stars travel longer-than-usual distances from the shell break before burning out after 2-3 seconds.


4 | Palm Tree

This shell contains a few large comet stars and is designed to leave a bright silver tail as it’s fired, creating the palm tree trunk. As it explodes, large petals produce a palm tree-like effect. If small insert shells are added, you might also see a burst of color inside the palm burst to simulate coconuts. Wow.


5 | Weeping Willow

Similar to a chrysanthemum, this shell has long-burning gold and silver stars in a large-caliber shell that break softly and slowly, leaving a heavy glitter trail. The stars drape down to Earth like a waterfall or willow tree. They have a much longer burning duration: 6-8 seconds. Also known as Kamuro, which refers to a common Japanese hairstyle.


6 | Tourbillion

This shell breaks very softly and at first does not appear to be terribly exciting. Then eight to 10 silver spinners begin to twirl in tight patterns and all bets are off. Variations include whistle spinners, silver spinners and saluting spinners. Ten hut.


7 | Crossette

This pattern is like a dahlia in that it does not have as many stars as some others, but different in that crossette stars are even larger than those of a dahlia. The petal goes up in the air and explodes, then each star starts to explode away from the center of the burst, and then, after 2 seconds, each star explodes again and becomes an individual firework, creating a crisscrossing grid-like effect. Hang on to your hats.


8 | Pattern Shells 

The first pattern that firework makers created was a lean shell hula hoop in the sky called a ring. As they’ve become more proficient, firework makers have taken the ring shell and made a smiley face, stars, hearts, spirals, cubes, clovers, octopuses and butterfly fireworks.


9 | Half and Half

Half of the star is one color, the other half is another color; thus the clever name.


10 | Salute

This shell contains a large quantity of flash powder rather than stars, which creates a quick, white, bright flash and a very loud thunderous noise. Titanium can be added to the mix to produce a cloud of bright sparks around the flash. Most shows end in a large volley of thunderous salutes to create intense noise and brightness. Salutes are also called Maroons. These are the ones you feel in your chest.

Battleship Blast

On the 4th of July we celebrate our independence by honoring those who helped give us the freedom we enjoy. From coast to coast, there are countless ways to catch the spirit. One of the best happens right here in Wilmington: the Riverfront Celebration and Battleship Blast. The Blast will feature entertainment provided by the 440th North Carolina Army National Guard band, featuring the Minute Men, Concert Band and the Jazz Patriots from 5-9 p.m. A street fair on Water and Front streets will offer crafts and food vendors. At 9 p.m., the state’s largest choreographed fireworks display will begin. Last year, approximately 50,000 people watched the fantastic fireworks as they filled the sky and reflected off the Cape Fear River. For more information, visit 


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