Reddish Vale Country Park
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Gorse comprises a genus of about 20 species of evergreen shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family.
Other names for gorse are, furse, whin and furze.
Gorse is closely related to the brooms, and like them has green stems and very small leaves and adapts to dry growing conditions, but differs in its extreme spininess, with leaves being modified into 1-4cm long spines.
All the species have yellow flowers, some with a very long flowering season.
Common gorse flowers most strongly in spring, though it bears some flowers all year round, hence the old country phrase: "When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion".
The flowers have a very distinctive strong coconut scent.
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Gorse is a fire climax plant, very well adapted to stand-replacing fires, being highly inflamable, and having seed pods that are to a large extent opened by fire, thus allowing rapid regeneration after fire. The burnt stumps also readily sprout new growth from the roots.
Gorse thrives best in poor growing areas and conditions; it has been widely used for land reclamation, where its nitrogen-fixing capacity helps other plants establish better.
Gorse is a valuable plant for wildlife, providing dense thorny cover ideal for protecting bird nests.