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.


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


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.


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.


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


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




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.


11 comments 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

  2. D.Asher says:

    In Brazil gorse is known as “carqueja”, which is used as a medicinal tea. It tates quite bitter but it is the best medicine for the liver. Nasty hangovers disappear in 15 minutes after drinking the tea.

  3. C says:

    I got one of the flower like needles in my eye,pretty hard. Eye did not bleed but vision has been blurry.
    Any suggestions?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Go to the doctors or opticians.

    2. Mel says:

      I ate a very green seed pod in its early days. Will I be OK? I mistook it for a bud… oops.

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        One seed pod won’t do you any harm.

  4. Gertrud says:

    I sometimes chew a flower, and it tastes definitely oily. Not unpleasant, not bitter either (in my mouth). But most of all I discovered, some years ago, when I was suffering from depression, that standing close to gorse for about ten minutes, any time of year, my mood would noticeably lift and I’d feel definitely better for 1-2 days. Later someone told me Gorse was one of the Bach remedies, and looking it up, I could only confirm what Bach said about its effect.

  5. john jones says:

    IT is said you should kiss your sweetheart when the gorse is in bloom

  6. Elvie Hempson says:

    Are the twigs safe to use for tea?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is not wise to consume gorse in large amounts or too regularly as there are small amounts of toxic alkaloids present but the odd tea made from gorse wood should do you no harm. The wood is classed as non toxic and used to be used for making cutlery due to its durability.

  7. Elisabeth Cave says:

    I live in New Zealand on the West Coast of the South Island where there’s zillions of gorse. I pull up gorse sprouts and seedlings nearly every day as a matter of habit, and I always enjoy it! how funny that it is said to help people. I’ve often wondered if I could eat the tiny two-leaf sprouts.. now I think I’ll just try.
    thank you

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