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Dwarf Gorse
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Genisteae
Genus: Ulex

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: 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 inflammable, 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 best in poor growing areas and conditions; it has been 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, has become naturalised and an invasive weed due to its aggressive seed dispersal; it has proved very difficult to eradicate. However, in New Zealand, it has been found to form a useful nursery 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.

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 MacLennan clan from Kintail, Scotland.

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


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Gorse". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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