“When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season”

Tomorrow is National Kissing Day, so we thought we’d take the excuse to use this old country phrase to share some images of gorse’s beauty and the wildlife it supports.

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It’s scientific name is Ulex europaeus (for the most common of the 3 species found in the UK). Fortunately for fans of kissing, between the 3 species gorse stays in bloom for most of the year! Common Gorse mainly flowers from January to June, whereas Dwarf (ulex minor) and Western  (ulex gallii) Gorse bloom from July to November.

It is a member of the legume, pea & bean family. It is very good at adapting to its environment – the sharp spikes protect it from hungry animals (although Exmoor ponies are very partial to the young buds). Its dense structure provides a protective environment for wildlife – especially in winter. It is a vital refuge for nesting heathland, downland and farmland birds in harsh weather, such as the Dartford warbler, stonechat, linnet and yellow hammer. Plus its long-lasting flowers attract pollinators with their bright yellow petals and coconut-like fragrance, supplying an important nectar source in early spring and early winter. You can learn more about the gorse-loving birds on Exmoor in our Moorland Birds guide.

Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘gorst’ for a wasteland or uncultivated area. The flowers can be used to produce a beautiful yellow dye; the buds can be preserved in vinegar and eaten like capers! Also known as Furze or Fuzz here on Exmoor, other names include Whin, Ruffet, Frey and Goss.

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