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Gorse is a deep-rooted, woody perennial shrub that can grow to 4m tall. It has densely spined branches and is woody when mature. Gorse has bright yellow flowers from May to November, and black seed pods in summer. Gorse seed reserves in the soil are long-lasting and abundant under and near established infestations.
Grows well on a variety of soil types including light sands, heavy clays and disturbed soils. Its habitat includes river-beds, pasture, scrubland, forest margins and waste land.
Gorse has the ability to occupy a wide range of soil types, and recovers easily after burning. It is quick to colonise new areas, forming dense thickets. The plant invades pasture land and roadsides as well as low growing or regenerating native vegetation.
An established hedge can produce up to 6 million seeds per hectare per year. Flowering begins when the plant is around 18 months old, with flowering usually occurring in spring and autumn. In cold climates flowering may only occur once a year, but flowers can remain year-round when conditions are favourable. Bushes can live for up to 30 years.
As a member of the nitrogen-fixing family, gorse can promote healthy soil-nutrient levels for native plants. Where native trees are to be planted, gorse can act as a nursery plant as it will die-off due to its shade intolerance, as native species will begin to create cover as the canopy develops.