Herbs & Plants

Ulex europaeus

Botanical Name: Ulex europaeus
Species:U. europaeus
Kingdom:    Plantae

Synonyms:  Furze. Broom. Whin. Prickly Broom. Ruffet. Frey. Goss.
Common Names: Gorse, Common gorse, Furze

Habitat: Ulex europaeus is  native to portions of Europe from the northern United Kingdom south to Galicia in Spain and Portugal, and from the western Republic of Ireland east to Galicja in Poland and Ukraine. There is probably hardly a heath in the country which lacks a patch, however small, of the dry-soil-loving Furze.

Ulex europaeus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate, growing to 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) tall. The young stems are green, with the shoots and leaves modified into green spines, 1–3 centimetres (0.39–1.18 in) long. Young seedlings produce normal leaves for the first few months; these are trifoliate, resembling a small clover leaf.

The flowers are yellow, 1–2 centimetres (0.39–0.79 in) long, with the pea-flower structure typical of the Fabaceae; they are produced throughout the year, but mainly in early spring. The fruit is a legume (pod) 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long, dark purplish-brown, partly enclosed by the pale brown remnants of the flower; the pod contains 2-3 small blackish, shiny, hard seeds, which are ejected when the pod splits open in hot weather. Seeds remain viable for 30 years.


Like many species of gorse, it is often a fire-climax plant, which readily catches fire but re-grows from the roots after the fire; the seeds are also adapted to germinate after slight scorching by fire. It has a tap root, lateral and adventious roots. An extremely tough and hardy plant, it can live for about thirty years.

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. They often accumulate dry dead spines at their centre, this can be a fire risk in dry summers. The plants often resprout from the base after a fire and, even if killed, numerous seedlings will soon spring up to replace the dead plants. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. The flowers are strongly scented of coconut. Another report says that the flowers have a smell of vanilla with undertones of orange or pineapple. 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. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. 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.

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. 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

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

Parts Used:  Flowers, seed.

Medicinal Uses:
Gorse has never played much of a role in herbal medicine, though its flowers have been used in the treatment of jaundice and as a treatment for scarlet fever in children. The seed is said to be astringent and has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and stones. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Hopelessness’ and ‘Despair’

Other Uses:
Bruised gorse was used in some areas for feeding to horses and other livestocks.

Lectin extracted from seeds of this species binds to, is remarkably specific for, and is the standard method for identification of H-substance (absent in the hh antigen system) on human red blood cells. The vast majority of humans express H-substance, which is the basis for the ABO blood group system, but a few rare individuals (“Bombay phenotype“) do not—and a chemical isolated from Ulex europaeus is used to identify these individuals.
It fixes nitrogen into the soil.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.