Ulex, also known as Gorse or Furze, is a genus composed of about 15 species of evergreen shrubs in the family Fabaceae, native to western Europe and northwest Africa.
Most of the species have narrow and thorn-like leaves, with flowers generally being small, pea-shaped and golden yellow. Gorse is in flower through most of the year, hence the saying “When Gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season“.
The scientific name was derived from the Celtic “ec” or “ac”, meaning “a prickle”, in reference to the prickley branches of the plant.
The common name “Gorse” is derived from the Old English word “gorst”, which means “a wasteland” or “uncultivated area”.
Gorse symbolizes fertility, protection and hope.
In the past, its sprigs were used to ward off evil spirits, but also to welcome good ones. The ancient Celts believed that all things of the natural environment were possessed of spirits including plants, and the Gorse was thought to offer protection against misfortune and evil spirits.
Its long flowering season was associated with fertility, and in Celtic times it was linked with the tradition of adding a sprig of Gorse to a bride’s bouquet. The sprigs were also ritually burned around livestock as a protection against sterility.
According to various mythologies, this plant is associated with sun and light due to its bright yellow flowers.
It is linked with the Celtic god Lugh, a god of the sun and light, who was seen as a protector against evil and darkness.
Interesting facts about Ulex
The Festival of Golden Gorse
In Celtic tradition, Gorse was one of the sacred woods.
Celtic summer festival of Lughnasadh is known as the Festival of Golden Gorse. The festival is celebrated on August 1 in Brittany, a region in the northwest of France with a powerful Celtic cultural heritage.
Is Gorse Invasive?
Ulex europaeus, also known as Common Gorse, is one of the top 100 worst invasive species worldwide due to its aggressive seed dispersal. The plant dominates the landscape threatening native species and transforming ecosystems. The seeds are easily distributed by animals, machinery and water. Unfortunately, control of the plant is hard and expensive.
Benefits and Uses
The flowers are generally considered to be edible. They can be eaten raw in salads or made into tea. They are used to flavor beer, whiskey and wine.
However, be careful with consuming too much, as it can cause an upset stomach due to the alkalis they contain.
The flowers of the plant give yellow and green dyes.
Ulex Plant Data
The flowers are usually yellow in color.
Spring, Autumn, Winter, Summer
The plant can grow up to 3 metres (10 ft) high.
The plant grows in most soils, but does best in soil that is sandy and slightly acidic. It appreciates hot sun and dry, poor soil.