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Kissing’s always in season

“Kissing’s out of season when gorse is out of bloom” – so says the old English saying. Pull over! Stop the car! Let’s get comfortable…

Ulexeuropaeus500For as I continue my back-and-forthing visiting family and friends through southern England most of the motorways and other major roads have gorse, Ulex europaeus, in flower alongside  – sometimes miles of it. And that’s the point: it’s very rarely without a flower, even in a proper winter. This winter, of course, has not been at all proper: the January sunbathers in Central Park made the news here in England.

Gorse, known as furze or whin in some areas, has always been plentiful and so had many traditional uses: in particular it was bundled and used to heat ovens in homes and bakeries and, after crushing in a cider mill to flatten the nasty spines, it was used as a winter feed for stock. Rarely grown in gardens, the double flowered form is no improvement. It is mentioned in a number of traditional folk songs and its reminder that a kiss and a cuddle is always to be enjoyed remains potent.


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Ulex europaeus is not a native species, U. gallii is, hence the different flowering times - U. europaeus especially the double form is strongly scented - smelling of almonds.

Graham Rice

Yes, the scent can be quite noticeable.

In fact, both species are native along with the low growing U. minor which is mainly restricted to the south east. The presence of U. europaeus, which mainly flowers in the cooler months, together with U. gallii, mainly summer flowering, plus hybrids between the two - yes, that is certainly the basis for the all-year flowering of gorse in good years.

Gorse, U. europaeus, is native over almost the whole of Britain and Ireland though it has also been planted; U. galli, the Western gorse, is mainly found in Wales and the south west as well as southern Ireland.

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