Saturday, 11 July 2009

Gorse hedges

Gorse is one of the commonest scrub plants here -- thorny, tough, and inedible to almost everything, so it is rarely trimmed by grazing. On the Curragh, the rolling plains a few kilometres from us that has been used for horse racing since the Romans, giant gorse clumps rise like mushrooms four metres tall over the fields.

On the other hand, it has lovely yellow flowers all year long, and it makes an effective barrier for animals, so it's a popular hedge. Although I've never tried it, I'm told you can make it into a nice wine as well.


Anonymous said...

Don't underestimate the humble gorse, Brian.

Not only does it make wine, but also a lovely tea. It's also been used as an animal feed up here in Scotland and it provides great potection for birds nests. Moths and insects live on it.

On top of all that, it also acts as a nitrogen-fixing plant, helping along it's neighbouring plants.

And, finally, there's the lovely smell of vanilla!

Ronald Langereis said...

I also liked them very much, when I saw them for the first time on a hike by Offa's Dyke on the Welsh / English border, and later on Dartmoor and Exmoor.

It's very rare in the Netherlands, because land use is much more intense here, than in Ireland, and besides, our winters can be too cold for it.

We call it 'stekelbrem' [stickle broom], and 'gaspeldoorn' as well, of which 'doorn' is the equivalent of 'thorn'. I wonder, if 'gaspel' alludes to the 'gasping' you do, when feasting your eye on its yellow beauty, or to the effect of its toxic substance on the body, but I doubt it. Anyhow, on both counts the gorse may take your breath away!

Brian Kaller said...


I knew you can boil pine needles for vitamin C in emergencies, and gorse seems similar, but I didn't know the tea was pleasant. I also didn't realize it made animal feed -- they must be hardy animals.


Or it could be like the Hawaiian word for sharp lava rocks, which I'm told is the noise you make if you accidentally step on them.

Ronald Langereis said...

If the Dutch had been like the Hawaiians, maybe in today's Dutch 'gorse' had been spelled *****!

A little googling put me on a different trail. 'Gaspel' is derived from 'gaspe' [modern 'gesp'], which means buckle, or clasp. Stupid of me not to think of it, that the thorns were used as pins, of course.