Gorse
Overview
 
Gorse, furze, furse or whin (Ulex) is a genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of about 20 plant species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of thorny
Thorns, spines, and prickles
In botanical morphology, thorns, spines, and prickles are hard structures with sharp, or at least pointed, ends. In spite of this common feature, they differ in their growth and development on the plant; they are modified versions of different plant organs, stems, stipules, leaf veins, or hairs...

 evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

 shrub
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

s in the subfamily Faboideae
Faboideae
Faboideae is a subfamily of the flowering plant family Fabaceae or Leguminosae. One acceptable alternative name for the subfamily is Papilionoideae....

of the pea family Fabaceae
Fabaceae
The Fabaceae or Leguminosae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, is a large and economically important family of flowering plants. The group is the third largest land plant family, behind only the Orchidaceae and Asteraceae, with 730 genera and over 19,400 species...

, native to western Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and northwest Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, with the majority of species in Iberia
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

.

Gorse is closely related to the brooms
Broom (shrub)
Brooms are a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the legume family Fabaceae, mainly in the three genera Chamaecytisus, Cytisus and Genista, but also in many other small genera . All genera in this group are from the tribe Genisteae...

, and like them, has green stems and very small leaves and is adapted to dry growing conditions. However it differs in its extreme thorniness, with the shoot
Shoot
Shoots are new plant growth, they can include stems, flowering stems with flower buds, and leaves. The new growth from seed germination that grows upward is a shoot where leaves will develop...

s being modified into branched thorns
Thorns, spines, and prickles
In botanical morphology, thorns, spines, and prickles are hard structures with sharp, or at least pointed, ends. In spite of this common feature, they differ in their growth and development on the plant; they are modified versions of different plant organs, stems, stipules, leaf veins, or hairs...

 1–4 cm (0.393700787401575–1.6 in) long, which almost wholly replace the leaves as the plant's functioning photosynthetic
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 organs.
Encyclopedia
Gorse, furze, furse or whin (Ulex) is a genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of about 20 plant species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of thorny
Thorns, spines, and prickles
In botanical morphology, thorns, spines, and prickles are hard structures with sharp, or at least pointed, ends. In spite of this common feature, they differ in their growth and development on the plant; they are modified versions of different plant organs, stems, stipules, leaf veins, or hairs...

 evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

 shrub
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

s in the subfamily Faboideae
Faboideae
Faboideae is a subfamily of the flowering plant family Fabaceae or Leguminosae. One acceptable alternative name for the subfamily is Papilionoideae....

of the pea family Fabaceae
Fabaceae
The Fabaceae or Leguminosae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, is a large and economically important family of flowering plants. The group is the third largest land plant family, behind only the Orchidaceae and Asteraceae, with 730 genera and over 19,400 species...

, native to western Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and northwest Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, with the majority of species in Iberia
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

.

Gorse is closely related to the brooms
Broom (shrub)
Brooms are a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the legume family Fabaceae, mainly in the three genera Chamaecytisus, Cytisus and Genista, but also in many other small genera . All genera in this group are from the tribe Genisteae...

, and like them, has green stems and very small leaves and is adapted to dry growing conditions. However it differs in its extreme thorniness, with the shoot
Shoot
Shoots are new plant growth, they can include stems, flowering stems with flower buds, and leaves. The new growth from seed germination that grows upward is a shoot where leaves will develop...

s being modified into branched thorns
Thorns, spines, and prickles
In botanical morphology, thorns, spines, and prickles are hard structures with sharp, or at least pointed, ends. In spite of this common feature, they differ in their growth and development on the plant; they are modified versions of different plant organs, stems, stipules, leaf veins, or hairs...

 1–4 cm (0.393700787401575–1.6 in) long, which almost wholly replace the leaves as the plant's functioning photosynthetic
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 organs. The leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 of young plants are trifoliate
Leaf shape
In botany, leaf shape is characterised with the following terms :* Acicular : Slender and pointed, needle-like* Acuminate : Tapering to a long point...

, but are later reduced to scales or small spines
Thorns, spines, and prickles
In botanical morphology, thorns, spines, and prickles are hard structures with sharp, or at least pointed, ends. In spite of this common feature, they differ in their growth and development on the plant; they are modified versions of different plant organs, stems, stipules, leaf veins, or hairs...

. All the species have yellow flowers, some with a very long flowering season.

Species

The most widely familiar species is Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus), the only species native to much of western Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, where it grows in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils. It is also the largest species, reaching 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) in height; this compares with typically 20–40 cm (7.9–15.7 in) for Western Gorse (Ulex gallii). This latter species is characteristic of highly exposed Atlantic coastal heathland
Heath (habitat)
A heath or heathland is a dwarf-shrub habitat found on mainly low quality acidic soils, characterised by open, low growing woody vegetation, often dominated by plants of the Ericaceae. There are some clear differences between heath and moorland...

 and montane habitats. Western gorse is replaced in the eastern part of Great Britain by Dwarf Furze (Ulex minor
Ulex minor
Ulex minor, Dwarf Furze or Dwarf Gorse is an evergreen dwarf shrub in the family Fabaceae, native to eastern England, France, Spain and Portugal. It is restricted to lowland heathland habitats....

), a plant about 30 centimetres (11.8 in) tall, characteristic of sandy lowland heathland
Heath (habitat)
A heath or heathland is a dwarf-shrub habitat found on mainly low quality acidic soils, characterised by open, low growing woody vegetation, often dominated by plants of the Ericaceae. There are some clear differences between heath and moorland...

.

Common gorse flowers a little in late autumn and through the winter, coming into flower most strongly in spring. Western Gorse and Dwarf Furze flower in late summer (August-September in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

). Between the different species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrase: "When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion". Gorse flowers have a distinctive coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 scent, experienced very strongly by some individuals, but weakly by others.

Ecology

Gorse may grow as a fire-climax plant, well adapted to encourage and withstand fires, being highly flammable, 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 in poor growing areas and conditions including drought; it is sometimes found on very rocky soils, where many species cannot thrive. Moreover, it is widely used for land reclamation (e.g., mine tailings), where its nitrogen-fixing
Nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation is the natural process, either biological or abiotic, by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia . This process is essential for life because fixed nitrogen is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of life, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and...

 capacity helps other plants establish better.

Gorse is a valuable plant for wildlife, providing dense thorny cover ideal for protecting bird nests. In Britain, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, it is particularly noted for supporting Dartford Warbler
Dartford Warbler
The Dartford Warbler, Sylvia undata, is a typical warbler from the warmer parts of western Europe, and northwestern Africa. Its breeding range lies west of a line from southern England to the heel of Italy...

s (Sylvia undata) and European Stonechat
European Stonechat
The European Stonechat is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a subspecies of the Common Stonechat. Long considered a member of the thrush family Turdidae, genetic evidence has placed it and its relatives in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae.It is 11.5–13 cm long and...

s (Saxicola rubicola); the common name of the Whinchat
Whinchat
The Whinchat Saxicola rubetra is a small migratory passerine bird breeding in Europe and western Asia and wintering in Africa.Its scientific name means "small rock-dweller", in reference to its habitat...

 (Saxicola rubetra) attests to its close association with Ulex. The flowers are sometimes eaten by the caterpillar
Caterpillar
Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

s of the Double-striped Pug
Double-striped Pug
The Double-striped Pug is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is a widespread and common species, being found throughout the Palearctic region, the Near East and North Africa....

 moth
Moth
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Moths form the majority of this order; there are thought to be 150,000 to 250,000 different species of moth , with thousands of species yet to be described...

 (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata), while those of the case-bearer moth Coleophora albicosta
Coleophora albicosta
The Testaceous White-back is a moth of the Coleophoridae family. It is found in most of western Europe.The wingspan is about 14 mm. Adults are on wing from June to July. They fly by day, but also sometimes come to light at night.The larvae feed on Ulex europaeus. First it feeds on green seeds...

feed exclusively on Ulex. The dry wood of dead gorse stems provides food for the caterpillars of the concealer moth Batia lambdella
Batia lambdella
Batia lambdella is a species of gelechioid moth. It belongs to the subfamily Oecophorinae of the concealer moth family . The genus Batia is sometimes treated as monotypic, but this seems spurious considering how similar B. lambdella is to the type species B...

.

Invasive plant

In many areas of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, southern South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, and California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 the Common Gorse, introduced as an ornamental plant
Ornamental plant
Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as house plants, for cut flowers and specimen display...

 or hedge, has become naturalised and a weed
Weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

 and invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 due to its aggressive seed dispersal; it has proved very difficult to eradicate and detrimental in native habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s.

Management

Gorse readily becomes dominant in suitable conditions, and where this is undesirable for agricultural or ecological reasons control is required, either to remove gorse completely, or to limit its extent. Gorse stands are often managed by regular burning
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 or flailing, allowing them to regrow from stumps or seed. Denser areas of gorse may be bulldozed
Bulldozer
A bulldozer is a crawler equipped with a substantial metal plate used to push large quantities of soil, sand, rubble, etc., during construction work and typically equipped at the rear with a claw-like device to loosen densely-compacted materials.Bulldozers can be found on a wide range of sites,...

.

Foods

Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads, tea and to make a non-grape-based fruit wine
Fruit wine
Fruit wines are fermented alcoholic beverages made from a variety of base ingredients ; they may also have additional flavours taken from fruits, flowers, and herbs. This definition is sometimes broadened to include any fermented alcoholic beverage except beer...

.

Gorse is high in protein and may be used as feed for livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

, particularly in winter when other greenstuff is not available. Traditionally it was used as fodder
Fodder
Fodder or animal feed is any agricultural foodstuff used specifically to feed domesticated livestock such as cattle, goats, sheep, horses, chickens and pigs. Most animal feed is from plants but some is of animal origin...

 for cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

, being made palatable by being "bruised" (crushed) by hand using mallets, being ground to a moss-like consistency using hand- or water-driven mills, or finely chopped and mixed with straw chaff
Chaff
Chaff is the dry, scaly protective casings of the seeds of cereal grain, or similar fine, dry, scaly plant material such as scaly parts of flowers, or finely chopped straw...

. Gorse is also eaten as forage
Forage
Forage is plant material eaten by grazing livestock.Historically the term forage has meant only plants eaten by the animals directly as pasture, crop residue, or immature cereal crops, but it is also used more loosely to include similar plants cut for fodder and carried to the animals, especially...

 by some livestock, such as feral
Feral
A feral organism is one that has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. In the case of plants it is a movement from cultivated to uncultivated or controlled to volunteer. The introduction of feral animals or plants to their non-native regions, like any introduced species, may...

 ponies
Pony
A pony is a small horse . Depending on context, a pony may be a horse that is under an approximate or exact height at the withers, or a small horse with a specific conformation and temperament. There are many different breeds...

, who may eat little else in winter. Ponies may also eat the thinner stems of burnt gorse.

Fuel

Gorse bushes are highly flammable, and in many areas bundles of gorse were used to fire traditional bread oven
Masonry oven
A masonry oven, colloquially known as a brick oven or stone oven, is an oven consisting of a baking chamber made of fireproof brick, concrete, stone, or clay. Though traditionally wood-fired, coal-fired ovens were common in the 19th century, modern masonry ovens are often fired with natural gas or...

s.

Gorse-based symbols

The furze is the badge of the Sinclair
Clan Sinclair
Clan Sinclair is a Highland Scottish clan of Norman origin who held lands in the north of Scotland, the Orkney Islands, and the Lothians which they received from the Kings of Scots...

 and MacLennan
Clan MacLennan
Clan MacLennan, also known as Siol Ghillinnein, is a Highland Scottish clan which historically populated lands in the north-west of Scotland. The surname MacLennan in Scottish Gaelic is Mac Gille Fhinnein meaning the son of the follower of St Finnan.-History:-Origins:According to tradition the...

 clans of Scotland. Compare this with the broom
Broom (shrub)
Brooms are a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the legume family Fabaceae, mainly in the three genera Chamaecytisus, Cytisus and Genista, but also in many other small genera . All genera in this group are from the tribe Genisteae...

 (Planta genista
Broom (shrub)
Brooms are a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the legume family Fabaceae, mainly in the three genera Chamaecytisus, Cytisus and Genista, but also in many other small genera . All genera in this group are from the tribe Genisteae...

) as the emblem and basis of the name of the Plantagenet kings of England.

Gorse in popular culture

In Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

's classic novel The Return of the Native
The Return of the Native
The Return of the Native is Thomas Hardy's sixth published novel. It first appeared in the magazine Belgravia, a publication known for its sensationalism, and was presented in twelve monthly installments from January to December 1878...

, when Clym is partially blinded through excessive reading, he becomes a furze-cutter on Egdon Heath
Egdon Heath
Egdon Heath is a fictitious area of Thomas Hardy's Wessex inhabited sparsely by the people who cut the furze that grows there. The entire action of Hardy's novel The Return of the Native takes place on Egdon Heath, and it also features in The Mayor of Casterbridge and the short story The Withered...

, to the dismay of his wife, Eustacia. In the book, the timeless, gorse-covered heath is described in each season of the novel's year-and-a-day timeline and becomes symbolic of the greater nature of mankind.

Its flammability rendered gorse symbolic as quickly flammable and quickly burning out; for example in Sir Nigel
Sir Nigel
Sir Nigel is a historical novel set during the Hundred Years' War, by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Written in 1906, it is a fore-runner to Doyle's earlier novel The White Company, and describes the early life of that book's hero Sir Nigel Loring in the service of King Edward III at...

 Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

 has Sir John Chandos
John Chandos
Sir John Chandos, Viscount of Saint-Sauveur in the Cotentin, Constable of Aquitaine, Seneschal of Poitou, KG was a medieval English knight who hailed from Radbourne Hall, Derbyshire. Chandos was a close friend of Edward, the Black Prince and a founding member and 19th Knight of the Order of the...

say: "...They flare up like a furzebush in the flames, but if for a short space you may abide the heat of it, then there is a chance that it may be cooler... If the Welsh be like the furze fire, then, pardieu! the Scotch are the peat, for they will smolder and you will never come to the end of them."

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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