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Gorse - Ulex europaeus

Gorse - Ulex europaeus

Main features

  • Found on wasteground, heaths, commons, roadsides, and cliffs

  • Has dense dark-green spines

  • Yellow pea-like flowers all year

  • Flowers smell mildly of coconut

  • Flowers followed by pea-like seed pods

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Gorse - Ulex europaeus

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Furze, European Gorse, Common Gorse, Whin, Honey-Bottle, Fingers-And-Thumbs, French Fuzz


Scientific name meaning: Apium is derived from the latin Apis, for “bee” in reference to the bee's supposed preference of the plant. Europaeus is of Latin origin, meaning "of or from Europe"

Season All year - peak flowering in April/May

Habitat - where will I find it? Gorse can be found on wasteground, commons, cliffs, heaths, and roadsides. It is a native of Western Europe and has been introduced to New Zealand, the Americas, Africa and Australasia. It is considered an invasive pest in most of the areas it has been introduced to

Description - what does it look like? Reaching up to 2m, Gorse is densely covered in dark-green spines. All year is has yellow pea-like flowers - it is a member of the pea (Fabaceae) family. However, peak flowering time is April/May

Possible lookalikes Western Gorse (Ulex gallii) and Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor) are very similar, but both have the same edible qualities.

Brooms also look very similar from a distance, but they lack the dense spines of Gorse

Use as a food The flowers are used to make syrups, Gorse lemonade, herbals infusions, jellies, and capers

Use in herbal medicine Used in the Bach Flower Remedies "Despair" and "Hopelessness".

Was believed to have been used to treat scarlet fever

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses The ashes of burnt Gorse can be used as a fertiliser, or mixed with vegetable oil to make a soap. 

Gorse is a nitrogen fixer and its spines protect saplings, so it is used as a pioneer shrub for establishing new woodland

Hazards It is very easy to injure oneself on the spines when harvesting flowers. Heavy duty garden gloves are advised

Importance to other species Provides a year-round food source for pollinators

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

Gorse - Ulex europaeus
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