categoryZShrubs Shrubs List 
categoryZEvergreen Evergreen List 

GORSE

FURZE, COMMON GORSE

Ulex europaeus

Pea Family [Fabaceae]

month8apr month8april month8may month8jun month8june

category
category8Shrubs
category
category8Evergreen
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8yellow
 
inner
inner8cream
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZspiked
 
stem
stem8round
 
stem
stem8fluted
 
smell
smell8coconu
coconut
contact
contactZhigh
 

22nd April 2015, rare Dune-Heathland, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Gorse is now taking over most of these rare and treasured dune-heaths such that it has been deemed necessary to remove great swathes of them since this photo was taken, although at the moment, just around these stones it seems much the same. But elsewhere there is now a lot of bare earth where once was gorse. Of course, dune-heath is exactly what Gorse likes, but you can't let it exclude every other plant as it was on-course to do.


7th April 2009, path, Bouldner Coast, IoW. Photo: (CC by 2.0) Mike Cotterill
Gorse flowers much earlier (April to June) than Western Gorse (July to October) but beware of overlap when one or other flowers later or earlier than specified, especially in this modern warming climate. It grows to 2.5m high (and Western Gorse just a bit shorter at up to 2m). Gorse in particular can and often does flower later into the summer and autumn season overlapping those of Western Gorse and Dwarf Gorse - beware! In Autumn Gorse can also grow many buds.


25th March 2016, dunes, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Gorse is also invading parts of the Sefton Coast along with another sharply-spiny persistent offender Sea-Buckthorn which also forms impenetrable thickets.


5th May 2006, Mottistone Common, IoW. Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
The flowers of Gorse open more fully and in denser flower-spikes than Western Gorse.




22nd April 2015, rare Dune-Heathland, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are only slightly larger with the largest petal, the banner, at 12-18mm long than those of Western Gorse at 11-17mm long, although there is very little in it!


6th March 2017, Birkdale Dunes, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are also more yellow than the orangy-yellow of Western Gorse


20th March 2009, Entwistle Resr, Darwen, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The spines are branched (as they are on all species of Ulex). The spines are also very strong (1.5 to 2.5 cm) and deeply grooved on Gorse (less stiff on Western Gorse, and shorter at 0.8 - 1.5cm and flexible on Dwarf Gorse).


20th March 2009, Entwistle Resr, Darwen, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Spines more deeply grooved (especially the main supporting stem) than other Ulex species.


22nd April 2015, rare Dune-Heathland, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Banners open and the aroma of coconut from the flowers is advertising their wares to the insects. This is the only species of Gorse where the flowers smell, of coconut.


10th May 2006, Langho, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The (outer) wings are longer than the (inner) keel.


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are noticeably on flower stalks (pedicels).

Some of the branched spines have been broken here and also much of one of the flowers (please Sir, please Sir - it wasn't me Sir!). 3 sets of bracteole pairs can now be more easily seen.



9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
There are two triangular bracteoles each supporting the two deeper-yellow calyxes which enclose the flower. The (brownish here) bracteoles (at 1.8 to 4.5mm long and 1.5 to 4mm wide (being over twice as wide as the flower stalks) are generally much larger and more noticeable than those on either Western Gorse (0.5 to 0.8mm long by 0.6 to 0.8mm wide) or Dwarf Gorse (at 0.6 to 0.8mm long by long and 0.4mm to 0.6mm wide).


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
Shaded in a forested area. The hairs on the calyx are spreading (patent). One half of each pair of bracteoles each side of both calyxes can be seen.


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
Shaded in a forested area, these specimens are thinner and weaker and are lagging behind the rest which are out in the open and flowering. Your Author does not think they are of Dwarf Gorse (that doesn't grow up in the North West of England) and the hairs are not brown. The hairs are spreading (rather than appressed) on the calyx either (so cannot be Western Gorse)


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
Shaded in a forested area. There are two flower buds at the end. The other green things must be new leaves/nascent spines (for the spines are modified leaves).


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
Shaded in a forested area. This cannot be Dwarf Gorse because the bracteoles around the calyx are quite large (rather than the tiny 0.6 to 0.8mm long by 0.4 to 0.6mm wide)


9th April 2013, Thurstaston Common, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
Shaded in a forested area. The calyx has spreading hairs confirming that this must be a rather weedy specimen of common Gorse (calyx hairs appressed on Western Gorse).


20th March 2009, Entwistle Resr, Darwen, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Right flower: The calyx is 2/3rds as long as the petals.


22nd June 2016, marina, Southport, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
A group of mostly still green and unripe fruits (pods), with spreading hairs.


22nd June 2016, marina, Southport, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The flattish fruits (pods) still clasped by the now fawn-coloured calyx. Some now lime-green petals can also be found amongst the mass.


29th May 2008, meadow, Tolt Copse, IoW. Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
Pods trying to peek out.

Behind: New foliage growth is fairly soft at first.



22nd June 2016, marina, Southport, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Nearly ripe pods, brown, most still with the long style attached, and with the hairs patent (sticking out. The pods contain 2-3 shiny, small, black seeds which are hard and are shot out of the pods as they open in hot weather to grow into a new plant nearby. The seeds are viable for 30 years.

Below: New spines developing, still relatively supple and short.



29th May 2008, meadow, Tolt Copse, IoW. Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
A spent bush, flowers gone to seed and with new foliage developing (softer spines).


Not to be semantically confused with : species of Ilex (Hollies) [plants with similar Genus name]

Easily mistaken for : other Gorses - see photo captions.

Hybridizes with :

  • Western Gorse (Ulex gallii) to produce Ulex × breoganii which is highly fertile occurs only rarely where the two parents overlap. It is intermediate in character especially in the following features: calyx, corolla, bracteole size and the number of ovules per fruit (between 7 and 10). It flowers in Autumn and Winter.
Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :


  Ulex europaeus  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Fabaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pea family8Fabaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Ulex
Ulex
(Gorses)

GORSE

FURZE, COMMON GORSE

Ulex europaeus

Pea Family [Fabaceae]