- Scientific name: Ulex europaeus
- Family: Fabaceae (pea, bean, legume)
Densely branched spiny shrub up to 2m tall. Leaves up to 1.3cm long, rigidly linear and sharply pointed. Flowers golden-yellow, sometimes marked red at base; coconut scented; on 6cm-long hairy stalks. Fruit up to 2cm long, densely hairy. Pollinated by insects.
- The soft, hairy buds form into new flowers.
- Gorse is amazing at adapting to its environment: its sharp spikes protect it from hungry animals; its flowers attract pollinators with their bright yellow petals and coconut-like fragrance; and its seeds pop out when they are ripe.
- ‘When gorse is in bloom, kissing is in season.’ There are many variations of this country saying but the truth is that gorse is never really out of flower, so there will always be time for kissing!
- The common name comes from the Old English ‘gorst’, meaning a wasteland or uncultivated area.
Where it grows
It is common in disturbed areas, grasslands, shrublands, forest margins, coastal habitats and wasteland.
The flowers produce a beautiful yellow dye, can be preserved in vinegar and eaten like capers, or added as a flavouring to spirits.
Gorse is classed as an invasive. It is tenacious once established and can out-compete and displace other native plants. It can also be a fire hazard as the plant holds onto its dead and dry branches and leaves.
As a member of the Fabaceae family this plant can fix nitrogen to nodules on its roots, enabling it to live in areas of poor soil quality; however, this can acidify the soil, making it difficult for other plants to grow.
Gorse attracts many pollinators, but its seed pods are eaten by gorse pod moths (Cydia succedana) and weevils (Aphion ulicis).