Feb 13 2024

Gorse in winter

Winter photograph of a view across the heath, with gorse in flower in the foreground
Click Image to Enlarge

Last week I wrote about heather in winter. So how about that other heathland stalwart, gorse? At this time of year the flowering gorse is a picture and sometimes people ask us why the land managers have cut it back so hard. The thing is, you can have too much of a good thing, and if it’s happy, gorse can be a bit of a thug. It’s a good thing to keep it under control and keep the shrubs compact and dense. The older, leggy gorse isn’t much good, but nice compact shrubs make good foraging habitat for Dartford Warblers and give them shelter during the winter. Even if it’s cut right down to the ground, it’ll grow back. Grazing helps to keep it compact too.

You’ve maybe heard the old saying that when gorse is in flower, kissing’s in season! That’s lucky because we have two species of gorse here on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, and that helps to keep the supply of flowers coming.

Winter photograph of a view across the heath, with gorse in flower in the foreground

European Gorse flowering at Brookwood Heath, February 2024

At the moment, the European Gorse is having its moment, and will keep on going well into spring. Its tall, dark green stems are adorned with coconut-scented flowers. Part of the Pea family, you’ll notice the similarity with your Garden Peas and Sweet Peas. Just a lot spinier!

Wintery photo of compact gorse shrubs.

Compact gorse shrubs that have been grazed, February 2024

Later in the summer the Dwarf Gorse will take over. These smaller shrubs have a more yellowy-green colour and the stems and spines are noticeably smaller. As the Common Heather comes into bloom in late summer, the Dwarf Gorse will accompany it. Such a pretty colour combination!

Winter photograph of a view across the heath, with a gorse plant in the foreground - it's not in flower because this one is Dwarf Gorse and it's in flower in the summer

Dwarf Gorse in February

Nice photograph of Dwarf Gorse flowering

Dwarf Gorse in August (by Warden Tim)

Thames Basin Heaths Partnership
Pictorial messages for "Keep to main paths", "Prevent fires" and "Explore alternatives"



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