Growing Conditions/period: Common to southern England, Gorse is an evergreen shrub with green leaves shaped like conifer needles and brilliant yellow flowers that grow up to 2 metres / 6 ft tall in rough grassy places, particularly by the sea. In spite of its tough appearance, it is not able to stand an exceptionally hard winter. The bright yellow, coconut-perfumed flowers take the shape of pea blossoms and grow at the end of the gorse branches. The mature branches have conspicuous spines.
Gorse bush facts suggest that the shrub is a legume, a member of the pea family. They form compact shrubs, sufficiently dense and spiny to create an impassable hedge.
Raw edible parts: The bright yellow flowers can be eaten raw and can be made into a tea. The buds can be pickled and used like capers. Gorse is a useful wild food as it flowers continually all year round.
Issues: Do not eat flowers in very large quantities on a regular basis as they contain slightly toxic alkaloids. Do not let this put you off! The long pods and dark seeds are not edible either raw or cooked.
Other info: Gorse is a useful native shrub. It is a pioneer species and a nitrogen fixer feeding the soil and other plants around it. The wood can be used as fuel and works well as kindling as it burns quickly and high temperatures. The Wood ash is rich in potassium and can be used to make a lye for making soap or to enrich the soil. A yellow dye can be made from the flowers and roots.
Since it is thorny it often presents an impenetrable barrier to both people and animals. It will usually tolerate the grazing habits of deer and rabbits, although this may depend on how hungry the animals are. The flowers produce pollen in the autumn, winter and spring when little else is in flower and is therefore important to bees and other pollinating insects.