Gorse Photo by K. Collier

Is it possible to say something good about Gorse?

Maybe. Depends on if you have ever tried to get rid of it or not.

Some consider Gorse as a pretty, fragrant shrub. Others class it as something akin to devil spawn.

Gorse maintains a love-hate reputation not only with humans but other plants. In both cases, it has earned this reputation well.

Is anything good?

Gorse was commonly used in several ways including as a:
–Food source (the flowers are edible). Plant can be used as livestock feed as it is high in protein. Pollen from the various varies help pollinators, such as bees.
–Product creation such as soap making, yellow dye, cleaning tools
–Traditional Medicines (listed as one of 38 plants in the Bach’s Flower Remedies.

Lots o’ Bad

Gorse has earned a dubious reputation in several ways and is now on several invasive and noxious lists for States and countries. Bandon is no stranger to this plant that arrived over 100 years ago thanks to ‘Lord’ George Bennett, an Irish immigrant. In Ireland, the plant had many uses and natural biological controls generally not present here.

Bandon is ‘ground zero’ for gorse removal and fire risk reduction. The rumor is that gorse helped fuel the Bandon Fire of 1936 that burned down most of the town. A Gorse Action Group in Bandon is working on the problem (see What’s the Deal with Gorse? (https://sea-edu.org/2019/12/17/whats-the-deal-with-gorse/). Then again, dried gorse was used as kindling and a fire fuel for bread making ovens.

More Hate than Love

There is a lot more hate than love now-a-days, and fortunately controls that can help manage this noxious weed. Here is a quick comparison:

A Small Gorse Spider Mite Experiment

Mites control gorse through extensive feeding pressure. The mites will through feeding kill shoots, reduce plant growth and overall plant biomass, and abort the production of flowers. It can take a long time for these mites to control the gorse. What if we could help this along?

This is our little experiment:
Year 1: We took a few, small cuttings from mite-infected plants and threw them on some bushes. Result: Mite spread slow but evident, and did not persist on some bushes.
Year 2: We took larger cuttings off of several bushes that exhibited mite infestation. Placed several 6-inch sprigs on approximately 12 other bushes with light or relatively no infestation. Result: All bushes infected; most showed some stress.
Year 3: Mechanical removal employed on several large, bushes. Result? Can’t wait to plant the area. More mechanical and hand removal is in progress. It will be interesting to look back next year and see the results. I think I also spotted a Gorse soft shoot moth on my shovel handle. There is hope.  

–Wikipedia, Ulex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulex_europaeus)
–Tasty Natives, Ulex europaeus (https://www.greenlab.org/tastynatives/2018/11/01/gorse/
6 organic ways to get rid of gorse (https://thisnzlife.co.nz/5-organic-ways-get-rid-gorse/) (Note: link does say 5 rather than 6 as in title, error in link naming)
What are the effects of gorse on the ecosystem? (http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/weeds/a-z-of-weeds/gorse)
–University of Washington, 66-8633 Gorse Soil Effects (https://portal.nifa.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0213036-66-8633-gorse-soil-effects.html)
Victorian Gorse Taskforce (https://www.vicgorsetaskforce.com.au/biological-control/)