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Ulex Europaeus, Gorse


Gorse is an excellent pioneer species for poor soils and areas with maritime exposure. It is fast-growing, feeds the soil with nitrogen and provides good conditions for woodland trees to become established.

These trees will eventually out-compete the gorse, which is unable to reproduce well in the shady conditions and will thus gradually die out.

Gorse is very tolerant of maritime exposure, it can be used as a windbreak hedge in the most exposed positions, making an impenetrable barrier with its vicious thorns. Planted for soil stabilization on sandy substrates, it is very good for stabilizing roadside banks on poor soils.

The wood burns very well, it was much used in the past for kindling, heating bakers ovens etc. The ashes from the burnt wood are rich in potassium and can be used in making soap. This soap can be made by mixing the ashes with a vegetable oil, or mixing them with clay and forming them into balls.

The ashes are also an excellent fertilizer.

An easily grown plant, it requires a poor soil and a sunny position to be at its best. It does well on dry sunny banks or in poor gravelly soils. It is intolerant of shade, nor does it do well on rich soils. Prefers a neutral to slightly acid soil, disliking alkaline soils. Plants are very intolerant of root disturbance. Very tolerant of maritime exposure and, once established, drought.

Although native to Britain and said to be hardy to about -20°c, gorse often suffers badly in severe winters, but the plants usually recover.

It is one of the most refreshing of all flower scents. A food plant for the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species. Plants often form dense thickets and these are ideal nesting areas for many species of birds.

This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Edible uses

The flower buds are pickled in vinegar and then used like capers in salads. A tea is made from the shoot tips.


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