First of all there’s a bit of problem with names. What is called gorse in England and parts of eastern Ireland is the same shrub that’s normally called furze in the south of the country and whin in the north.

The same name is applied to two native species, common or European gorse and Irish or mountain gorse. Irish gorse is a smaller shrub, commoner along the west coast and in upland areas.

Its main flowering is in the autumn while common gorse is just coming in to its main flowering period in the spring. The flowers are bright yellow, slightly darker in the Irish species, and have a pleasant aroma, a bit like coconut.

Outside the main flowering periods, both species have a tendency to produce some flowers in every month. This is the thinking behind the country saying: ‘when the furze is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion’.

The flowers ripen into black pods, like small pea pods, which burst open explosively to distribute the seeds.


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