Gorse

Edible Edible Poisonous Poisonous Spring Spring Summer Summer

There are three species of this thorny evergreen growing in the UK, Common, Western and Dwarf Gorse. They are  members of Faboideae, a subfamily of Fabaceae which is the Pea family. Only the flowers and flower buds are considered edible and in small quantities. The peas and pods are toxic.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Gorse, Gorse, Furze, Whin, Prickly Broom
Scientific Name Ulex sp.
Season Start Jan
Season End Dec
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

The leaves are modified and grow into tough, green needle like thorns.

Flowers

Golden yellow and  looking like pea flowers. Gorse can flower year round depending on climate and habitat.

Seed Pods

The seed pods are dark purple/brown to black with white hairs covering them. The pods contain three or four small black seeds.

Habitat

Gorse has nitrogen fixing roots so can most often be found on poor soil where there is no competition like shingle banks around the coast, waste ground, forest edges and grasslands.

Smell

The flowers can smell of coconut when open and in the sun.

Taste

Said to taste of almonds or coconut but I only get extreme bitterness.

Frequency

Common.

Collecting

The flowers and buds are safe to eat raw but they should not be eaten too often or in large quantities as they contain small amounts of toxic alkaloids.

Medicinal Uses

Gorse doesn’t seem to have many medicinal uses but the seeds can apparently be soaked and used as a flea repellent.

Other Facts

Gorse makes a great impenetrable barrier and can be used to keep stock in and predators out.
It is so effective that in 2005 Dean Bowen tried to wander home from his local pub slightly the worse for wear, he woke up in the middle of a gorse patch and couldn’t get out. After two days he attracted the attention of a passer by who called the emergency services, they could not get to him so the Royal Navy finally got him out with a helicopter. Nobody, including Dean, has any idea how he got into the middle of a gorse patch.

COMMENTS

1 comment for Gorse

  1. david rist says:

    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

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