gorse

Ulex europaeus
Shrub
Alternate
Compound
Yellow
Green

A woody shrub usually growing 0.5-2.5 m tall with spiny stems. The 'leaves' are usually reduced to narrow, rigid, dark-green spines (5-35 mm long and about 1.5 mm wide) that are borne in clusters along the branches. It produces masses of bright yellow pea-shaped flowers (15-25 mm long). These flowers are borne in the leaf forks or in small clusters at the tips of the branches. Its small egg-shaped or oblong pods (10-25 mm long and 6-8 mm wide) turn dark brown or black in colour as they mature and are densely covered in long spreading hairs.

Common names 
Also known as: gorse , Irish furze, common gorse, European gorse, golden gorse ,
Family 
Fabaceae
Deciduous 
No
Flowering time 
Spring- Summer
Native/Exotic 
Native
Origin 
Native to central and western Europe (i.e. France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland) and the British Isles.
Notifiable 
No
State declaration 
Category 3 - Must not be distributed or disposed. This means it must not be released into the environment unless the distribution or disposal is authorised in a regulation or under a permit.
Council declaration 
As per State Declaration
Known distribution 

Widely naturalised in southern and eastern Australia, particularly in the coastal and sub-coastal districts of south-eastern Australia. It is most abundant and widespread in Tasmania and Victoria, but is also realtively common in the south-eastern parts of New South Wales and South Australia. Also occasionally naturalised in south-western Western Australia, other parts of eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland, and sparingly naturalised in the ACT. Also naturalised overseas in northern and eastern Europe, northern and southern Africa, temperate and tropical Asia, New Zealand, western and north-eastern USA (i.e. California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts), Hawaii, Central America, South America and the Mascarenes.

Habitat 

This species is mainly a weed of hillsides, waterways, roadsides, railways, pastures, grasslands, open woodlands, forests, disturbed sites, coastal environs, waste areas and forest margins in temperate regions. It is also occasionally found in the cooler, upland areas of sub-tropical regions.

Habit 

An upright (i.e. erect or ascending), dense (i.e. much-branched), spiny shrub usually growing 60-250 cm tall, but occasionally reaching up to 4 m or more in height. Plants growing in harsh conditions may occasionally be very low-growing (i.e. procumbent), and such plants are capable of producing roots from their stems (i.e. adventitious roots).

Impact and control methods 

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is regarded as a significant environmental weed in Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia, and as an environmental weed in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. This species is also one of the twenty Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) and is actively managed by community groups in Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria.It is also listed in the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD), and is regarded to be among the top 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species.

Stem and leaves 

The branches are ribbed when young, hairy (i.e. pubescent), armed with large spines (up to 50 mm long) and possess many smaller branches (i.e. branchlets) that each end in a sharp spine. These younger stems are green in colour, but as they mature they turn brown, become woody, and develop a deeply-furrowed bark. On mature plants the 'leaves' are usually reduced to narrow, rigid, dark-green coloured spines (5-35 mm long and about 1.5 mm wide). These 'spine-like leaves' (sometimes called phyllodes) are very numerous, stalkless (i.e. sessile), sometimes hairy (i.e. pubescent), and usually occur in regularly spaced clusters along the branches.

Flowers and fruits 

The numerous, sweet-smelling (i.e. fragrant), flowers are yellow and pea-shaped in appearance (15-20 mm across). These flowers are borne on short stalks (i.e. pedicels) 5-7 mm long, either in the leaf forks (i.e. axils) or in small clusters at the tips of the branches. They have bright yellow petals (15-25 mm long) and a yellowish coloured, membranous, hairy (i.e. pubescent) calyx (10-15 mm long) that is almost divided to the base (i.e. it is two-lipped) and has five teeth. Flowering may occur throughout the year, but is most abundant from late winter to early spring and during autumn in cooler climates and during spring and summer in warmer climates. The fruit are small egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid) or oblong pods (10-25 mm long and 6-8 mm wide) that turn dark brown, grey or black in colour as they mature. They often have an inflated appearance, and are densely covered in long spreading hairs. Each pod contains 1-6 seeds and is partly hidden by the remains of the flowers (i.e. the calyx bracts). The seeds are smooth and shiny in appearance, olive green or brown in colour, and either kidney-shaped (i.e. reniform), rounded or somewhat triangular in shape (2-4 mm long and about 2.5 mm wide). They also have a small straw-coloured or whitish structure attached to them (i.e. an aril).

Reproduction and dispersal 

This plant generally reproduces via its relatively large seeds, which are spread by several means. Cultivation and movement of the root system occasionally also leads to regeneration from root fragments. They can be explosively released small distances (i.e. up to 5 m) from their pods when they reach maturity. Animals such as birds and ants may collect the seeds and contribute to their spread. Seeds may also be dispersed in contaminated soil (e.g. during road-making, grading and other soil-moving activities), in mud, by water, and in dumped garden waste.

Similar species 

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is very similar to broom (Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius), spiny broom (Calicotome spinosa), flax-leaf broom (Genista linifolia), Montpellier broom (Genista monspessulana) and Madeira broom (Genista stenopetala) at a distance, as these are all shrubs that produce masses of yellow pea-shaped flowers. However, these species can be distinguished by the following differences: gorse (Ulex europaeus) is spiny (i.e. armed) and the adult plants tend to lack any obvious leaves, instead bearing narrow spine-like 'leaves' in clusters along the stems. Its pods are relatively small (10-25 mm long), oblong or ovoid (i.e. egg-shaped), and densely covered in long hairs broom (Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius) is without spines (i.e. unarmed) and has leaves with three small, oval-shaped, leaflets (i.e. trifoliolate leaves) that are 5-20 mm long. Its pods are very large (25-70 mm long), elongated in shape, and only have hairs present along their edges spiny broom (Calicotome spinosa) is spiny (i.e. armed) and has leaves with three small leaflets (i.e. trifoliolate leaves) that are 6-12 mm long. Its pods are relatively large (up to 40 mm long), flattened, hairless, and end in a small spine flax-leaf broom (Genista linifolia) is without spines (i.e. unarmed) and has leaves with three narrow leaflets (i.e. trifoliate leaves) that are 20-30 mm long. Its pods are relatively small (15-30 mm long) and covered in silky or downy hairs Montpellier broom (Genista monspessulana) is without spines (i.e. unarmed) and has leaves with three relatively large, broad, leaflets (i.e. trifoliate leaves) that are 5-30 mm long. Its pods are relatively small (10-25 mm long) and densely covered in silky or downy hairs Madeira broom (Genista stenopetala) is without spines (i.e. unarmed) and has leaves with three relatively large, oval-shaped, leaflets (i.e. trifoliate leaves) that are 8-30 mm long. Its pods are relatively small (25-30 mm long) and densely covered in silky or downy hairs.