Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Gorse - Ulex europaeus

Family:Fabaceae - (Pea family)


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.[PFAF]
Ulex europaeus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jan to December, and the seeds ripen from Jan to December. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles.It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife. [PFAF]

Food Use

Other Uses

Medicinal Use

The recorded uses of gorse in folk medicine all come from those parts of the west of the British Isles where Ulex gallii is the only one certainly native and where U. europaeus, the common one over much of England, bears a name in Gaelic or Welsh indicative of comparatively recent introduction, for hedging and forage. Apart from a veterinary use in the Isle of Man, the records come from Ireland without exception. The principal application there has been for coughs, colds, sore throats and hoarseness (Down,[56] Londonderry,[57] Donegal,[58] Wicklow,[59] Waterford[60]), including consumption (Limerick[61]). In Londonderry,[62] Wicklow[63] and Kilkenny[64] it has also featured as a tonic, especially for cleansing or ‘increasing’ the blood, while in parts of Ulster[65] and in Wicklow[66] and Wexford[67] it has been favoured for heartburn or hiccups. In Cavan[68] and Limerick[69] decoctions of the flowers or ‘tops’ have been given for jaundice and in Cavan[70] for heart trouble, while in parts of Ulster[71] it has been applied to ringworm and dermatitis and in Meath (with daisy roots) for a whitlow[72] or a swelling.[73] Widely employed for ridding livestock of worms, that use has also been extended to children in Antrim[74] and Sligo.[75][MPFT]


In more recent times, it has been used in medicine for scarlet fever, and also jaundice, the latter surely being the result of the doctrine of signatures (yellow flowers to cure the yellow disease). The flower infusion is an old Wiltshire remedy for dropsy (Wiltshire). The green tops featured in many a Highlands cough medicine (Grant), as it was in Ireland too (Maloney), whooping cough as well (St Clair). It was also used there for asthma, by steeping it overnight and drinking the water, and furze used to be the agent in an Irish worm cure, both for children and horses. In the first case, it was enough to boil a handful of the flowers in milk, and give that to the child to drink (Vickery. 1995). [DPL Watts]

(Ulex europaeus)
Folk Names: Broom, Frey, Furze, Fyrs, Gorst, ''Goss, Prickly Broom, Ruffet, Whin
Gender: Masculine
Planet: Mars
Element: Fire
Deities: Jupiter, Thor
Powers: Protection, Money
Magical Uses: Gorse is a good protectant against evil. In Wales hedges of the prickly gorse are used to protect the home against fairies, who cannot penetrate the hedge. Gorse is also used in money spells; it attracts gold.[EMH Cunningham]


GorseUlex europaeus [DukePhyt]
Alcohol -> Straight-Chain Primary Alcohol CETYL-ALCOHOL Plant (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Alkaloid TRIGONELLINE [Dukephyt] Plant (WOI)
Alkaloid -> quinolizidine ANAGYRINE [Dukephyt] Plant (WOI)
Alkaloid -> quinolizidine CYTISINE [Dukephyt]

Flower (WOI)
Plant 1000 ppm (HHB)

Alkaloid -> quinolizidine METHYL-CYTISINE [Dukephyt] Shoot (WOI)
Alkanes-> Higher Alkanes TRIACONTANE [Dukephyt] Plant (HHB)
Carotenoid -> Carotenes BETA-CAROTENE [Dukephyt] Plant (WOI) 75,253 ppm(WOI)
Carotenoid -> Xanthophyll FLAVOXANTHIN [Dukephyt] Flower (HHB)
Carotenoid -> Xanthophyll LUTEIN-EPOXIDE [Dukephyt] Flower (HHB)
Carotenoid -> Xanthophyll VIOLAXANTHIN [Dukephyt] Flower (HHB)
Phenols -> Chalconoids/chalcones ISOLIQUIRITIGENIN-4'-DIGLUCOSIDE Flower (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Phenols -> Chalconoids/chalcones ISOLIQUIRITIGENIN-4,4'-DIGLUCOSIDE Flower (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Phenols -> Chalconoids/chalcones ISOLIQUIRITIGENIN-4-GLUCOSIDE Flower (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Phenols -> Chalconoids/chalcones ISOLIQUIRITIGENIN-4- GLUCOSIDE-4'-DIGLUCOSIDE Flower (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Phenols - > Isoflavones GENISTIN Flower (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Phenols - > Isoflavones GENISTEIN-7-0-GLUCOSIDE Flower (HHB)[Dukephyt]
Phytosterols BETA-SITOSTEROL [Dukephyt] Plant (HHB)
Terpene -> Triterpenes BETA-AMYRIN [Dukephyt] Plant (HHB)
Terpene -> Triterpenes SOYASAPOGENOL [Dukephyt] Plant (WOI)
Terpene -> Triterpenes LUPEOL [Dukephyt] Plant (HHB)
Phenols -> flavonoids -> Flavonols QUERCETIN-3,7-DIGLUCOSIDE [Dukephyt] Flower (HHB)
Phenols -> flavonoids -> Flavonols QUERCETIN-4'-GLUCOSIDE [Dukephyt] Flower (HHB)
Phenols -> flavonoids -> Flavonols QUERCETIN-7-GLUCOSIDE [Dukephyt] Flower (HHB)
Unknown -> Glycoside ULEXOSIDE [Dukephyt] Flower (WOI)
Unknown -> Unknown BETAINE [Dukephyt] Leaf (WOI)

Nutritional Information

Water 52.7% [WOI]
Ash 1.6-3.4% [CRC] Protein 4.6-9.7% [CRC] Fat 0.9-1.9 % [CRC]
Carbohydrate 4.3-85.2% [CRC] Fiber 14.3-30.2% [CRC] Vitamin A (PPM) 75-253 [WOI]

Ash 4.3% [CRC] Protein 30.6-37.3% [CRC] Fat 11.7-12.5 % [CRC]



An easily grown plant, it requires a poor soil and a sunny position to be at its best[11]. It does well on dry sunny banks or in poor gravelly soils[11]. It is intolerant of shade, nor does it do well on rich soils[11, 182]. Prefers a neutral to slightly acid soil[200], disliking alkaline soils[17]. Plants are very intolerant of root disturbance[11]. Very tolerant of maritime exposure and, once established, drought[75, 186, 200]. Although native to Britain and said to be hardy to about -20°c[184], gorse often suffers badly in severe winters[4, 17], but the plants usually recover[186]. They often accumulate dry dead spines at their centre, this can be a fire risk in dry summers[186, 200]. The plants often resprout from the base after a fire[200] and, even if killed, numerous seedlings will soon spring up to replace the dead plants[186]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[200]. The flowers are strongly scented of coconut[K]. Another report says that the flowers have a smell of vanilla with undertones of orange or pineapple[245]. It is one of the most refreshing of all flower scents[245]. A food plant for the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species[30]. Plants often form dense thickets and these are ideal nesting areas for many species of birds[186]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. 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[200].[PFAF]


Seed - pre-soak 24 hours in hot water and sow in individual pots in a greenhouse in late winter to early spring. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Plants are very intolerant of root disturbance and so should be planted into their permanent positions as soon as possible, though not until after the last expected frosts[78]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up in spring as soon as rooting commences and plant out into their permanent positions as soon as possible[78].[PFAF]


Shrub, heavily armed, not gland-dotted. Stem: much-branched from base, stiffly spreading, striate; twigs becoming thorns. Leaf: simple, alternate; juvenile (on seedlings, young shoots near ground) linear; adult awl-like, stiff, becoming spines. Inflorescence: generally cluster, axillary near twig tips, few-flowered. Flower: calyx 2-lipped, membranous, yellow, persistent; petals ± equal, yellow, persistent. Fruit: ± exserted from calyx, ovate or oblong, explosively dehiscent. Seed: 1–3, with small basal outgrowth.
± 20 species: western Europe, northern Africa. (Latin: ancient name) [Jepson]

Uses of Other Ulex Sp.

In a few taxa that cluster within QA-accumulating [QA=Quinolizidine alkaloids]genera, QAs are hardly detectable or levels are very low, such as in Ulex, Calicotome or Spartocytisus. These taxa have in common extensive spines that have apparently supplanted chemical defence. In such cases, the presence or absence of QAs is clearly a trait reflecting different ecological strategies rather than taxonomic relationships.[Wink BBPSM]


Page last modified on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 4:09 PM