They are a part of the rose family (Rosaceae) and related to the apple. The botanical genus name derives from the Greek word photeinos for shiny and refers to the often glossy leaves. Most species are evergreen, but deciduous species also occur. The fruits are used as food by birds, which excrete the seeds with their droppings and thereby distribute the plant.
Some varieties of Photinia are toxic due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in the foliage and fruit.