Gorse Ulex europaeus
Old stone pits with veined ivy overhung,
Wild crooked brooks o'er which is rudely flung
A rail and a plank that bends beneath the tread,
Old narrow lanes where trees meet overhead,
Path-stiles on which a steeple we espy
Peeping and stretching in the distant sky,
And heaths o'erspread with furze-bloom's sunny shine
Where wonder pauses to exclaim 'divine!'
Qualities of Gorse
Onn that is furze.
Helper of horses, wheels of the chariot, wounding, whin.
Strength of warriors, fierceness.
Gentlest of work.
Book of Ballymote 1391
Gorse Ulex europaeus (Latin) Onn (Gaelic/Ogham) Whin/Furze (Folk names)
'While gorse is in flower, Britain will not be conquered’
Gorse is a common sight on British heathlands growing well on those acid sandy soils near the coast as well as further inland. The above saying may well be true, for to not have gorse in flower would be a sad day for Britain as there is always gorse somewhere with flower upon it. These extremely prickly bushes have bright yellow flowers which exude a wonderful fragrance and on a calm summer’s day you can hear the ripe pods bursting.
There are so many reasons to praise that which is common. I could not sing the praises of Gorse more eloquently than John Claire in the opening poem above:
And heaths o'erspread with furze-bloom's sunny shine Where wonder pauses to exclaim 'divine!'
Our heaths are often known as commons and in the South of England we are blessed with a unique survivor of the common law system and the supreme place for lichen in Europe, the New Forest. The New Forest is a perfect place to experience what Wordsworth calls 'The harvest of a quiet eye'.
In common things that round us lie,
Some random truths he can impart,
The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart.
Gorse supports a wonderful array of heathland birds, its sharp spines protecting the nests of linnets, whinchats, stonechats and the now rare Dartford warbler. This protective uplifting side to gorse is reflected in traditional stories of golden-haired women such Eithir and Niamh who will whisk you off into fair lands where nothing fades but glimmers with a golden sheen. This may also be true of the powerful Goddess Adraste who Boudicca is said to have called upon to fight the Romans as she is a strong-willed , battle- ready, golden haired war Goddess!
Gorse calls us to destroy that which no longer serves and to start again from scratch just like the practice of burning heathland to regenerate new growth. Gorse challenges all pre-conceptions and promotes the concept of complete freedom. You now have the choice to stay under the protective shade of Pine or move out into the open and confront your fears!
The flowers in decoction can help jaundice, kidney stones and other obstructions.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.