Nature Diary: gorse flowers
Pod-like flowers are most prolific on mountainous and bogland scrubs from February to May
Common gorse is the only species native to much of western Europe. Photograph: Getty Images
The golden yellow flowers of the gorse or furze bushes across Ireland have the distinction of being the longest blooming flowers. With their coconut smell and blueish/green spiky stems, these pod-like flowers are most prolific on mountainous and bogland scrubs from February to May and add strong colour to the Irish landscape. Common gorse (Ulex europaeus) is the only species native to much of western Europe. It grows in sunny sites on dry, sandy soils. Foragers and chefs pick them for use in salads, herbal teas, cordials or syrups. They can also be added to beer, wine, spirits, ice cream or chocolate. Gorse flowers are also excellent pollinators for bees.
The ashes of gorse flowers were once used as a soap substitute when combined with clay. In the 18th and 19th centuries, gorse bushes were cut and dried to be used as fodder crop for horses and cattle. Some suggest it has potential for use again in a fodder crisis – an interesting alternative to burning it off the land to create grasslands.