I had this nice picture of Gorse. Yes, even in February this bush is producing flowers. So I shook Google awake and sent him off to see what he could find – for me to pass on as if I knew it all along. He found a few things. Did you know that we have three different types of gorse in the UK? One variety grows less than a metre tall and only in the south east, so this isn’t that one. The other two hybridise at the drop of a hat, I blame the bees myself – standards are slipping everywhere, so it is pretty pointless even trying to decide which one is which.
If you look closely at the flower and think it reminds you of a sweet pea or runner bean, you would be quite right, Gorse is a legume. Like the rest of the legume family, gorse is into nitrogen fixing and if you occasionally cut it right back it will release some of its store back and enrich the surface soil. It is also into calcium, it will fish it out of the sub-soil and use it to give its thorns a bit of backbone. When it dies back it drops its thorns, and sprinkles the calcium around.
It is actually, really interesting, if somewhat prickly, stuff. Chris Dixon of Penrhos in Wales, has a very interesting site here, with a whole page on how he uses it in Permaculture.
Then there was Dr Edward Bach (1886-1936) who devised a system of Flower Remedies. Gorse, for him was the remedy for people who had lost hope.
Indeed, a glimpse of the bright yellow flowers at this time of the year does lift the spirits.