Names of Fireworks | A Capitol Fourth | PBS
Support Provided By: Learn More

Name Your Favorite Firework!

Each year A Capitol Fourth strives to bring you the best fireworks display of any July Fourth celebration. But, did you know there are more than a dozen different types of aerial fireworks? Here are 10 examples of the pyrotechnics that you might see at this year’s celebration.


The most common type of firework, the peony shell is characterized by a spherical break of colored stars that burn without generating a trail of sparks, or tail effect.


Similar to a peony, a chrysanthemum has a spherical break of colored stars, though its stars leave behind a trail of sparks.


The willow resembles a chrysanthemum, but with long burning silver or gold stars that produce a soft, dome-shaped weeping willow-like effect.


As a type of peony or chrysanthemum, a diadem has a cluster of stationary stars at its center.


This shell contains a few large comet stars, which in bursting create large tendrils that give it the appearance of a palm tree.


A crossette produces stars that each break apart into four smaller stars, creating a crisscross effect.


The horsetail shell is identifiable by its break, which resembles a short tail.


A ring shell emits stars in a halo-like shape. Smiley faces, stars and other such identifiable shapes are common variants.

Roman Candle

A Roman candle is a long cylinder that can discharge either a single large star or a series of them between short intervals.

Photo courtesy of Matt Buck via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of KSDigital via Wikimedia Commons.


With a fuse that sets off a variety of effects in succession, a cake is essentially many Roman candles fused together. Cakes vary widely in size, though some can contain over 1,000 shots.