Gorse

Ulex europaeus

Family: Fabaceae

Type of weed:

Flowering Months: , , , , , ,

Description

Gorse is a dense, extremely spiny shrub up to 7 m tall, but more commonly 1 m to 2.5 m tall. It grows very quickly.

The alternating leaves resemble spines and are grey-green when young, darkening with age. Spines and leaves have a waxy coating and end in sharp yellow points.

Gorse flowers are 15 mm to 25 mm long, bright yellow in colour and grow singly from the bases of the leaves. The flowers are shaped like those of peas, and they have a distinct coconut-like smell. In NSW, flowering peaks in March to May, then again in July to October.

Seed pods are pea-pod shaped, black when mature and are covered with fine, dense hairs. Seed production is prolific and it remains viable in the soil for 25 years or more.

Don’t confuse with…

Gorse can be confused with a number of native plants such as:

Similar flowers:

  • Gompholobium
  • Pultenaea

Similar leaves:

  • Daviesia
  • Parrot peas (Dillwynia spp.)

Dispersal

Gorse seed pods split open explosively, ejecting seed up to 5 m, though most seed falls in or near the canopy of mature bushes. Significant long-distance dispersal in Australia occurs via machinery and contaminated soil. Water and ants are other important means of dispersal in NSW.

Gorse poses a serious threat to conservation values of the Upper Blue Mountains. It is adaptable to most soils but grows especially well on fertile soils, finding ideal conditions along drainage lines and creeks, where urban run-off has led to nutrient-rich silt build-up. Gorse competes vigorously with native plants for nutrients and water, forms impenetrable thickets and replaces native vegetation in significant shrub and sedge swamp communities and along creek lines, often in areas where rare native plants are found.

Impact on bushland

Gorse invades native vegetation, where it outcompetes with native plants, excludes all native ground cover and therefore reduces biodiversity. It also infests and spreads rapidly along watercourses and in wetlands.

Gorse thickets provide habitat for rabbits, feral cats, house mice and foxes.

Gorse is highly flammable, so Gorse patches increase the risk of wildfire.

Distribution

. Mt Victoria to Wentworth Falls but mainly around Blackheath.

Alternative planting

Native plants

  • Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa)
  • Dagger Hakea (Hakea teretifolia)
  • Heath Banksia (Banksia ericifolia)
  • Hill Banksia (B. spinulosa)
  • Woolly Tea Tree (Leptospermum grandifolium)
  • Gompholobium spp.
  • Pultenaea spp.
  • Daviesa spp.

Council provides a tool, on its Mountain Landscapes website, to help you choose native alternative plantings. Choose your village, soil, vegetation community and the purpose of your planting, and the tool will give you suggestions.

There are native nurseries in several Blue Mountains villages, including Glenbrook, Lawson and Katoomba. Please also ask at your favourite local nursery.

Control

Follow-up is essential as the removal of plants will stimulate the germination of seeds stored in the soil.

Regular slashing or mowing only are not effective in eradicating Gorse, because plants will regrow from cut stumps or dormant seed in the soil as soon as slashing ceases.

For more info

For key points on these techniques: