Weed of the Week: Gorse
With brilliant yellow pea-like flowers, gorse (Ulex Europaeus) has brightened the countryside of Southern Vancouver Island, West Vancouver, parts of the Gulf Islands, and Skidegate on the Queen Charlotte Islands. While this new bright and beautiful plant may lighten landscapes, its cheery colors are quickly clouded by many undesirable traits.
Gorse, a plant originally from regions of Western Europe, is identified as a provincially noxious weed under the BC Weed Control Act. Standing up to 2.5 m in height, this plant is supported by woody stalks, which become rigid and spiny with maturity. Gorse’s fragrant yellow flowers are approximately 1.5-2 cm long and extend from the plant’s stalks. These evergreen shrubs form dense thickets.
Gorse devours the sunshine and is well adapted to rocky and sandy areas with low soil fertility. The unsheltered sunshine found along roadsides, pastures and bluffs are extremely attractive to this plant.
The aggressive growth displayed by gorse threatens native species, recreation, and property. The plant out-competes native plants by releasing toxins into the soil. Its sharp thorns and dense growth restricts recreational activities and wildlife forage. Gorse often invades disturbed sites such as logged areas and impairs the forest’s natural re-establishment. The invader also produces volatile oils that increase the risk of fire.
Gorse is an extremely hardy plant with a lifespan of up to 45 years. The weed can survive fires; seeds can remain in the soil for as long as 40 years. The plant spreads seeds effectively by explosively splitting pods which settle a few meters away. Water, animals, humans, machinery, and ants are also carriers of the plant’s heart-shaped seeds.
Mechanical controls such as hoeing and digging up small plants can be effective in battling gorse. Established infestations often require larger equipment in order to remove roots. Additional techniques such as herbicides may also be utilized in managing gorse.
You can help protect BC’s vibrant plant diversity by learning more about how to identify and report infestations of gorse as well as other invasive species. To find out more, visit www.bcinvasives.ca or phone 1-888-WEEDSBC.