Last updated on May 20th, 2023 at 11:43 pm
The gorse flower (Ulex europaeus) belongs to the family Fabaceae and the genus Ulex. It is also known under the common names furze, whin gorst, goss, frey, frys, furrs, furbush, prickly broom, and ruffet.
Gorse is an evergreen, robust, spiny, and fast-growing shrub that yields clusters of yellow flowers on long flowering stalks. On average, the flowers measure 2 cm in length. The flowers form legumes (small hairy pods) containing 3–8 seeds. Gorse is a sweet-scented flower. The leaves are long, narrow, and thorn-like. The bushes can grow up to 300 cm tall.
The plant is native to the Atlantic regions of Western Europe. Its natural habitat covers scrublands, wastelands, edges of forests, and coastlines. Cultivated as an ornamental and hedge plant, the gorse plant has a worldwide distribution.
It was first brought to the United States in the 19th century. Since then, it has become a troublesome, highly invasive species across India, Australia, South Africa, and North America.
Once established, gorse bush colonies are virtually impossible to eradicate. Since the gorse plant is highly saturated with natural oils, it is also highly flammable but resilient—regenerates quickly after fire. Gorse pod moths and weevils are sometimes used as a natural treatment to curb the further spread of this invasive species.
Etymologically, the flowering gorse has roots in the Old English word “gorst,” which means “a wasteland.” The scientific name Ulex was derived from the Celtic word “ec” or “ac,” which is translated as a “prickle.” This is a reference to the prickly branches of the gorse bush. In Ireland, gorse is called aiteann, from aith, meaning ‘sharp,’ and tenn, meaning ‘lacerating.’
What does the Gorse flower symbolize?
Based on the principle of imitative magic, the golden color of the gorse flower symbolizes prosperity and wealth. In older times, gorse increased the value of the land on which it grew.
An old British saying goes that “where there’s gorse, there’s silver,” and another Gaelic saying mentions “gold under furze (a local name for gorse).”
In Scotland, there is a traditional belief that a season in which the gorse bushes are rich in blossom announces a good harvest. Since the gorse flower was a symbol of fertility, as a part of a ritual, gorse torches were carried around livestock to protect them against sterility.
Another gorse flower meaning is commitment, or “love for all seasons.” The reason is that the gorse blooms throughout the year—the plant is called “the never-bloodless furze.” A humorous Scottish saying goes, “when the gorse is out o’ bloom, kissin’ oot o’ fashion.” But since the gorse flower never goes out of bloom, one never loses interest in romance.
In another folk story, a witty man lying on his deathbed asked his wife not to marry again as long as the gorse was in bloom.
In Brittany, France’s northwestern region, lovers promised each other never-ending love by saying they would love while the gorse flower remained in bloom. This was also reflected in the custom of putting a gorse spray in the bride’s bouquet.
Another gorse flower meaning is healing. Gorse flowers were an Irish remedy for asthma. In Scotland, gorse has also been used to cure cough. Because the gorse flowers are yellow, the plant has been used as folk medicine to treat jaundice, cleanse the kidneys and heal urinary infections.
Gorse was an emblem of the spring equinox and of the Celtic god of light, sun, and summer, Lugh, because of its bright yellow blossoms. Gorse also held the status of one of the sacred woods burned on the Beltane bonfires.
In Britain, along with hawthorn and blackthorn, gorse was never brought into the house before Christmas Eve. The reason is probably the plant’s connection with the Crown of Thorns.
According to this belief, carrying furze flowers into the house was equivalent to inviting death for one of the family (“gorse in, coffin out”). Similarly, it was not recommended to give someone a gorse flower, as doing so was believed to invite a quarrel between the giver and the receiver, as it symbolizes anger.
All in all, the gorse flower symbolic meanings are:
- good fortune
- endearing and enduring affection
- sun and light
Meaning of the Gorse flower colors
Gorse flowers are always yellow, and no plant varieties exist in other colors. Yellow gorse flower meaning is life energy, light, brightness, and vibrancy. The gorse flowers symbolize hope and light at a time when one feels disheartened.
The Druid priests observed how the plant propagated. They noticed that, in the hot sun, the seeds flew off the parent plant as far as possible (up to half a meter away). This ensured that they would germinate in an area not overshadowed by the existing branches of the old bushes.
Today, it is also known that the gorse seeds retain their ability to germinate for up to 30 years. Due to these properties, the yellow gorse flower symbolizes the pursuit of light, life, and resilience.
Interesting facts about the Gorse flowers
- Anecdotes involving two prominent botanists testify to the charming appeal of the gorse flower. It is said that the gorse flower caused the 18th-century German botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius “the greatest delight.”
- Even more, when the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus came to England and saw the golden blossoms of gorse flowers, he was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight. He fell on his knees and thanked God “for the loveliness of the gorse flower.” Linnaeus liked the flower so much that he tried hard to introduce it to Sweden. Unfortunately, the plant did not survive in Sweden.
- The gorse flowers are edible and high in protein. They have a peculiar vanilla-coconut aroma. They can be consumed raw in salads and added to tea.
- Fermented gorse flowers have also been used in intoxicating ale, wine, Danish beer, and Irish whiskey.
- Gorse flowers can also be pickled with wine vinegar, salt solution, and peppercorns.
- Gorse has also been used in chocolates and ice creams.
- The gorse flowers are perfect—they contain both types of reproductive organs.
- Lughnasadh, the festival of the Golden gorse, is celebrated on August 1 across the Celtic nations.
- Gorse flowers produce yellow and green dyes, while the shrub’s bark gives a dark green dye.
How to grow Gorse flowers
Gorse is one of the most undemanding garden plants to grow and care for as long as you offer a sunny, dry location.
- Plant the gorse in light, warm, and well-drained soil.
- Place them in a spot with full sun and no shadow.
- Water regularly after planting.
How to care for Gorse flowers
- Water every 2 weeks.
- Prune old branches after they have bloomed.
- Remove frozen branches in spring.
Best time to gift Gorse flowers
Gifting gorse flowers is rather an unconventional choice. According to an old folk belief, gifting a gorse flower should be avoided. Such a gift could cause a dispute between two people.
It can also bring bad luck to the one who gifts the flower and the one who receives it. Although this is an outdated superstition, it is still why some people hesitate to consider this bright yellow flower a gift.
However, followers of the New Age movement often see a strong spiritual symbolism in the bright yellow gorse bloom. To them, the gorse flower meaning is light, energy, and the pursuit of truth. They also see other aspects of the gorse flower symbolism, such as love, fertility, and abundance. This makes gorse flowers a perfect gift for them.
According to folklore, you should not kiss your loved ones while the gorse is out of bloom. However, because different types of gorse bloom throughout the year, it may usually be found all year.
These flowers are generally thought to be edible. Because gorse flowers are so fragrant, they make an excellent addition to salads or steeped in fruit tea and an excellent gift for your friends and loved ones.