Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Ulex Europaeus

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Ulex europaeus leaf (15/10/2011, London)

Ulex europaeus leaf (15/10/2011, London)

Position: Full sun 

Flowering period: Spring and other times of the year

Soil: Well drained

Eventual Height: 2.5m

Eventual Spread: 2.5m

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7a-10b

Family: Fabaceae

Ulex europaeus is a native, bushy evergreen shrub. The leaves and shoots of this plant are modified into green spines making this entire plant very spiky.The leaves are 1-3 centimeters long. The hermaphrodite flowers are yellow, 1-2 cm long, with a typical pea-flower structure. They are produced throughout the year, but mainly in early spring. The fruit is a legume, 2 centimeters long, which is dark purplish brown. The seed pod contains 2-3 small blackish seeds which are released in hot weather. The roots of this plant fix nitrogen in the soil.

Ulex europaeus, commonly known as Gorse, Furze or Whin, is native to western Europe including thee UK. It is a plant that readily catches fire but re-grows from the roots after the fire. The seeds are also adapted to germinate after slight scorching by fire. It has been introduce to the Americas, New Zealand and Australia where it is generally considered a weed in some instances it is considered an invasive species. The Gorse Spider Mite can often be seen on this plant (this is shown on the image below) and will reduce it’s vigor.

In Gaelic it is known as ‘Ruisg Conasg’ meaning prickly. The pioneering naturalist Carl Linnaeus saw U. europaeus in bloom on London’s Putney Heath whilst on a visit to England. Britain has 3 native Gorse species such as the Common Gorse, Western Gorse and Dwarf Gorse. Common Gorse is the most widespread and can survive altitudes of up to 32oo metres. It can dominate areas where the soil is poor but cannot survive in arid climates, or places where there are extremes of heat and cold.

The etymology of the binomial name Ulex is derived from the ancient Latin name for this plant. Europaeus is derived from the Latin meaning ‘belonging to’ or ‘of Europe’.

Ulex europaeus (15/10/2011, London)

Ulex europaeus (15/10/2011, London)

The landscape architect may find Ulex europaeus useful as an effective, impenetrable informal native hedge. It may also be used as part of a naturalistic planting scheme, particularly in land reclamation projects. It is suitable for maritime planting. Care should be taken when locating this plant due to it’s extremely spiny nature.

Ecologically this Ulex europaeus provides an attractive haven for birds, who will live and feed within the safety of this bush. It is attractive to bees, butterflies, flies and beetles.

U. europaeus prefers a well drained soil, it will not tolerate very dry or very wet soils. It will tolerate most soil pH but prefers acidic or neutral soils. It will not tolerate chalky soils.

Maintenance: This plant requires little maintenance. It may be pruned to ground level if the plant needs to be renovate. In appropriate locations this plant may be managed by fire.

 


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