What is a Gorse Flower?

Christina Edwards

The gorse flower is the small yellow flower produced on the gorse bush. The two species, common gorse and western gorse, are both native to western Europe. Common gorse typically grows from 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) tall, while western gorse, sometimes referred to as dwarf furze, is much shorter. The gorse flower is often used to make wine, and there are a number of uses for the bush itself.

Gorse flowers are used to flavor whiskey, among other beverages.
Gorse flowers are used to flavor whiskey, among other beverages.

Young gorse bushes will sprout tiny leaves during the early part of their lives. These leaves, however, will then evolve into a number of sharp spiky thorns. Thorns on the common gorse bush have deep groves along them and are usually between 0.4 and 1.6 inches (1 to 4 centimeters) in length. Because of this plant's defense, those individuals trying to harvest the much sought-after gorse flower could walk away with bloody hands if they aren't careful.

The Gorse bush is native to western Europe.
The Gorse bush is native to western Europe.

An old saying states that when the gorse flower is out of season, so is kissing. This saying stems from the fact that, while most of the flowers bloom in the spring, this bush often has flowers on it all year long. The bright yellow flowers are often no more than an inch (2.5 centimeters) long, but they are said to have a very strong, sweet coconut-like smell.

The western gorse flower is a little different from the common gorse. This flower is typically a darker shade of yellow. Also, instead of blooming in the spring, it blooms during late summer and early fall.

From the northern parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, as far south as Portugal, and as far east as Poland, both species of gorse can be found growing wild in dry, sandy soil. Years ago, this plant was introduced to parts of America, Australia, and New Zealand as an ornamental plant, and they were often used as hedge plants. Because of the aggressive seed dispersal of the gorse plant though, they soon became an invasive weed in these foreign lands and are thought to be very difficult to get rid of.

Because of the sweet, coconut taste and aroma of the gorse flower, it is often used to make wine. Gorse flower wine is quite popular, and countless recipes for this beverage are available. Gorse flowers are also used to flavor other beverages, including teas, whiskey, and beer.

The branches of the gorse plant have a very high concentration of oil in them. Because of this, for years they have been used as a fuel. It is easy to ignite and it burns well and hot. In addition, this plant has also been used for livestock feed and soap making, among other things.

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