name = Gorse

image_width = 220px
image_caption = Dwarf Gorse
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Fabales
familia = Fabaceae
subfamilia = Faboideae
tribus = Genisteae
genus = "Ulex"
genus_authority = L.
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Ulex argenteus" "Ulex boivinii" "Ulex borgiae" "Ulex cantabricus" "Ulex densus" "Ulex europaeus" - Common Gorse "Ulex gallii" - Dwarf Furze or Furse "Ulex genistoides" "Ulex micranthus" "Ulex minor" - Dwarf Gorse "Ulex parviflorus"Ref: [http://www.ildis.org/ ILDIS Version 6.05]

Gorse ("Ulex") comprises a genus of about 20 species of evergreen shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae, native to western Europe and northwest Africa, with the majority of species in Iberia. Other common names for gorse include furse, whin and furze.

Gorse is closely related to the brooms, and like them, has green stems and very small leaves and adapts to dry growing conditions, but differs in its extreme spininess, with the leaves being modified into 1-4 cm long spines. All the species have yellow flowers, some with a very long flowering season.

The most widely familiar species is the Common Gorse ("Ulex europaeus"), the only species native in most of western Europe, where it grows in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils. It is also the largest species, reaching 2-3 m height; this compares with typically 0.2-0.4 m for Western gorse ("U. gallii"). This latter species is characteristic of highly exposed Atlantic coastal heathland and montane habitats.

Common gorse flowers most strongly in spring, though it bears some flowers year round, hence the old country phrase: "When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion." The flowers have a very distinctive strong coconut scent. Western gorse or Dwarf Furze differs in being almost entirely late summer flowering (August-September in Ireland and Britain), and also have somewhat darker yellow flowers than Common gorse.


Gorse is a fire-climax plant, very well adapted to stand-replacing fires, being highly flammable, and having seed pods that are to a large extent opened by fire, thus allowing rapid regeneration after fire. The burnt stumps also readily sprout new growth from the roots. Where fire is excluded, gorse soon tends to be shaded out by taller-growing trees, unless other factors like exposure also apply. Typical fire recurrence periods in gorse stands are 5-20 years.

Gorse thrives in poor growing areas and conditions including drought; [Plants for a future, 2008] it is sometimes found on very rocky soils, [C.M. Hogan, 2008] where many species cannot thrive. Moreover, it is widely used for land reclamation (e.g., mine tailings), where its nitrogen-fixing capacity helps other plants establish better.

It is a valuable plant for wildlife, providing dense thorny cover ideal for protecting bird nests; in Britain, France and Ireland, it is particularly noted for supporting European Stonechats and Dartford Warblers. The flowers are sometimes eaten by the larva of the Double-striped Pug moth and another moth, "Coleophora albicosta" feeds exclusively on "Ulex".In many areas of North America, southern South America, Australia and New Zealand, the Common Gorse, introduced as an ornamental plant or hedge, has become naturalised and an invasive weed due to its aggressive seed dispersal; it has proved very difficult to eradicate.

As an invasive

Gorse is one of the most recognised agricultural weeds in New Zealand. Introduced from Western Europe in the very early stages of European settlement, it was recorded by Charles Darwin during his voyage through New Zealand waters in 1835 as growing in hedges in the Bay of Islands. [K.Worsley, 1999] Its spread and development as a weed in this country's temperate climate was rapid but settlers failed to recognise the threat, and gorse seed continued to be imported and plantings deliberately established into the 1900s. Large spreading infestations over hundreds of hectares resulted, peaking in the late 1940s and costing past, present and future generations a great deal to clear and control. Gorse became New Zealand's most costly weed to control. Total eradication even with contemporary technology seems impossible. However, in New Zealand, it has been found to form a useful nursery for certain species for native bush regeneration. If gorse stands are left for several years, native seedlings generate in their shelter and grow up through the gorse, cutting out its light and eventually replacing it.

Other aspects

Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads, tea and to make a non-grape based 'wine'. Gorse was used as animal feed in Scotland and Wales within the UK. It was "bruised" (crushed) by hand using mallets, or through hand or water driven mills and mixed with straw chaff to make fodder.

The furse is the badge of the Sinclair and MacLennan clans of Scotland.

Furse is also a Devon surname. Gorse itself is a Lancashire surname.

Line notes


* [http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Ulex+europaeus Plants for a Future, database entry for "Ulex europaeus"]
* C. Michael Hogan (2008) "Catto Long Barrow fieldnotes", Modern Antiquarian [http://letmespeaktothedriver.com/site/11227/catto.html#fieldnotes]

External links

* [http://www.the-tree.org.uk/BritishTrees/TreeGallery/gorsec.htm Gorse on www.the-tree.org.uk ]
* [http://www.the-tree.org.uk/BritishTrees/MrsGrieve/mggorse.htm 'A Modern Herbal' (Grieves 1931)]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gorse — Gorse, n. [OE. & AS. gorst; perh. akin to E. grow, grass.] (Bot.) Furze. See {Furze}. [1913 Webster] The common, overgrown with fern, and rough With prickly gorse. Cowper. [1913 Webster] {Gorse bird} (Zo[ o]l.), the European linnet; called also… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gorse —    Gorse bushes can produce one or two flowers at any time of the year; hence the common saying, When the gorse is not in bloom, then kissing s not in fashion .    Occasionally it is included among the *flowers regarded as unlucky and not to be… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • gorse — O.E. gors gorse, furze, from P.Gmc. *gorst (Cf. O.S., O.H.G. gersta, M.Du. gherste, Du. gerst, Ger. gerste barley ), from PIE *ghers to bristle (Cf. L. hordeum barley; see HORROR (Cf. horror …   Etymology dictionary

  • gorse — [go:s US go:rs] n [U] [: Old English; Origin: gorst] a ↑prickly bush with bright yellow flowers, which grows in the countryside in Europe …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • gorse — [ gɔrs ] noun uncount a small bush that has yellow flowers and THORNS and grows wild in the countryside in Europe …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • gorse — ► NOUN ▪ a yellow flowered shrub, the leaves of which have the form of spines. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • gorse — [gôrs] n. [ME gorst < OE < IE base * ĝhers , to stiffen, bristle > L horrere, to stand on end] FURZE gorsy adj …   English World dictionary

  • gorse — gorsy, adj. /gawrs/, n. any spiny shrub of the genus Ulex, of the legume family, native to the Old World, esp. U. europaeus, having rudimentary leaves and yellow flowers and growing in waste places and sandy soil. Also called furze; esp. Brit.,… …   Universalium

  • Gorse — Gorce, Gorse, Gorsse Toponyme occitan désignant une haie, un enclos, ou encore un buisson épineux (gaulois *gorto). Le patronyme désigne celui qui est originaire de l un des nombreux lieux dits portant ce nom. Le nom Gorce est fréquent dans le… …   Noms de famille

  • gorse — Furze Furze, n. [OE. firs, As. fyrs.] (Bot.) A thorny evergreen shrub ({Ulex Europ[ae]us}), with beautiful yellow flowers, very common upon the plains and hills of Great Britain; called also {gorse}, and {whin}. The dwarf furze is {Ulex nanus}.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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