Common Gorse Ulex europaeus is a flowering plant (angiosperm) in the family Fabaceae – a family which consists of legumes, peas and beans, and is the third largest angiosperm family globally. It is a large evergreen shrub with many spiny needle-like leaves and distinctive yellow flowers which are around 2 cm in length and have a pleasant scent (described as coconut-like by some). It grows up to 2.5 metres but can take between 10-20 years to reach this height (RHS, 2019). Alternative names for this species include as furze and whin.
It occurs in a range of habitats including heathland, grassland, gardens and suburban environments, with a preference for sandy, well-drained soils and acidic to neutral pH conditions (RHS, 2019). It is a common and nationally widespread species which can be seen throughout the year and is typically in flower from January to June, providing a source of food, shelter and nesting habitat for a range of insects and birds.
Gorse is a distinctive plant however there are two other species which occur in the UK – Western Gorse Ulex gallii, which flowers from late summer to autumn and is predominantly found in the west of the country, and Dwarf Gorse Ulex minor, which also has a later flowering period and is occurs predominantly in the south and east of England (The Wildlife Trusts, n.d.).
Common Gorse had a range of traditional uses in the UK, having been collected from common-land as a source of fuel for lighting bread ovens, used as livestock fodder, used as a colourant for painting Easter eggs and was used as bristles for chimney and floor brushes (The Wildlife Trusts, n.d.).
At UEA, Common Gorse can be found on Lusty Hills, where the pictures featured in this blog post were taken on 29th March 2019.
|Seven-spot Ladybird Coccinella septempunctata on Common Gorse Ulex europaeus, Lusty Hills (UEA), 29 March 2019 (Max Hellicar)|
References and Sources of Information
Plantlife. (2019). Gorse. Retrieved April 02, 2019, from Plantlife: www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/discover-wild-plants-nature/plant-fungi-species/gorse
The Royal Horticultural Society. (2019). Ulex europaeus. Retrieved April 02, 2019, from The Royal Horticultural Society: www.rhs.org.uk/plants/18575/Ulex-europaeus/Details
The Wildlife Trusts. (n.d.). Common Gorse. Retrieved April 02, 2019, from The Wildlife Trusts: www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/trees-and-shrubs/common-gorse