Gorses, Brooms & Allies

Common Broom Petty Whin Common Broom Common Gorse

What are they?

The gorses, brooms and related species make up the majority of the woody shrubs in the pea family that might be found in East Anglia. They are all rather closely related and share family traits of typical 'pea flowers' and pod-like fruits. The plants are rather variable in other ways and may bear branches that are green and rush-like, be low, creeping species, or carry a formidable armament of spines.

Where are they found?

Some of our native species are common and often dominant on heaths and grassy places, with the spiny gorse in particular being rather troublesome on some nature reserves due to its persistence and rapid growth. Gorses are also widely planted as impenetrable hedges, while some species occur as escapes from cultivation in urban or suburban places.

Identification

These bushy species can readily be identified as a group by a combination of their pea-type flowers and their seed pods. Telling them apat mostly requires taking details of stem type, leaf shape and hairiness of the seed pods.



Common Gorse      Ulex europaeus

Native on areas of acidic grassland and heath but also much planted elsewhere. Flowers abundantly in May, but odd flowering branches can be found in any month of the year. Forms a dense, extremely spiny shrub to three metres in height. Leaves on seedlings and young plants are trifoliate but soon drop, leaving spiny, ridged stems. The spines are straight or only slightly recurved. At the base of the flower will be found two, tiny, brown bracteoles, each of which is at least as wide, if not wider than the flower stalk (see photo).

Common Gorse Common Gorse Common Gorse Common Gorse
Habit
Flowers
Stem and spines
Young leaves
Common Gorse Common Gorse
Flower detail
Seed pod


Western Gorse      Ulex gallii

Native on areas of acidic grassland and heath in East Suffolk and central and North Norfolk but rarely found elsewhere. Notable by its absence in Breckland. Flowers July to August. Forms a dense, extremely spiny shrub to 1.5 metres in height. Leaves on seedlings and young plants are trifoliate but soon drop, leaving spiny, ridged stems. The spines are typically clearly recurved. At the base of the flower will be found two, tiny bracteoles, each of which is narrower than the flower stalk. Calyx teeth convergent; calyx 9-13mm long.

Western Gorse Western Gorse Western Gorse Western Gorse
Habit
Flowers
Stem and spines
Flower detail


Dwarf Gorse      Ulex minor

Although native elsewhere in the UK, this species occurs only as a rare introduction in East Anglia, perhaps where plants have been wrongly identified in cultivation. Planted specimens persist at a handful of sites in the region. Flowers July to September. Forms a low shrub to one metre in height. The spines are typically straight and not as rigid as those of the other gorses. At the base of the flower will be found two, tiny bracteoles, each of which is narrower than the flower stalk. Calyx teeth divergent; calyx 5-9mm long.

Dwarf Gorse Dwarf Gorse Dwarf Gorse Dwarf Gorse
Flowers
Flower
Young leaves & spines
Spines
Dwarf Gorse
Flower detail


Common Broom      Cytisus scoparius

Native. Very common on all but the most alkaline soil. Native on heaths and acid grasslands but also widely planted elsewhere. Flowers May to June. A multi-stemmed, green shrub to two metres in height. Tiny, trifoliate leaves soon drop, leaving green, leafless stems. Flowers predominantly yellow, but other colours occur in cultivation and may sometimes be found in wild plants. Seed pods hairy on the margins, becoming black with age.

Common Broom Common Broom Common Broom Common Broom
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed pod
Common Broom Common Broom Common Broom Common Broom
Calyx teeth
Flower
Flowers
Flowers


Hairy-fruited Broom      Cytisus striatus

Introduced. Rare but persistent where it is planted, perhaps in error for our native broom. Flowers May to June. A multi-stemmed, green shrub to two metres in height. Tiny, trifoliate leaves soon drop, leaving green, leafless stems. Flowers predominantly yellow. Flowers with a wide gap between the calyx teeth (compare with Common Broom). Seedpods woolly-hairy all over, not just on the margins; becoming black with age.

Hairy-fruited Broom Hairy-fruited Broom Hairy-fruited Broom Hairy-fruited Broom
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Seed pod
Hairy-fruited Broom Hairy-fruited Broom
Seed pods
Calyx teeth


Spanish Broom      Spartium junceum

Introduced. Persists where planted and perhaps occasionally self-seeds. More frequent in coastal areas. Flowers May to June. A multi-stemmed, green shrub to three metres in height. Tiny, simple leaves soon drop, leaving stout, rush-like, leafless stems. Flowers predominantly yellow, larger than those of other brooms and heavily-scented. Seedpods long, slightly hairy, becoming black with age.

Spanish Broom Spanish Broom Spanish Broom Spanish Broom
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Flower
Spanish Broom Spanish Broom
Leaf
Seed pods


Montpellier Broom      Genista monspessulana

Introduced. Recorded self-seeding from gardens in Norfolk and Suffolk on a handful of occasions but probably not persisting. Flowers May to June. A multi-stemmed, green shrub to two metres in height. Leaves trifoliate with larger and broader leaflets than those of other brooms. Flowers yellow, in small clusters. Seedpods hairy.

Montpellier Broom Montpellier Broom Montpellier Broom Montpellier Broom
Habit
Flowers
Flower & leaves
Seed pods


Dyer's Greenweed      Genista tinctoria

Native. Uncommon and largely restricted to protected roadside verges and nature reserves in south-east Norfolk and East Suffolk. Flowers July to September. A low subshrub to around 60cm in height. Leaves simple, up to 3cm in length. Flowers and seedpods hairless, the pods darkening with age.

Dyer's Greenweed Dyer's Greenweed Dyer's Greenweed Dyer's Greenweed
Habit
Flowers
Flower
Leaves


Hairy Greenweed      Genista pilosa

Formerly native but now extinct in our region. This species is still found as a native in the western UK and is known to have been not uncommon in Breckland but was lost as an East Anglian native during the 19th Century. May still crop up as an escape from cultivation. Flowers May to June. A creeping subshrub to around 40cm in height. Leaves simple, downy beneath, small, usually less than 1cm in length. Flowers and seedpods downy, the pods darkening with age.

Hairy Greenweed Hairy Greenweed Hairy Greenweed Hairy Greenweed
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaves


Petty Whin      Genista anglica

Native. A scarce and declining species of wet, acid heaths and fen edges, now only found on a few, well-managed sites. Flowers May to June. A low subshrub to around 60cm in height, occasionally taller if growing among taller fen vegetation. Leaves simple, hairless, usually less than 1cm in length, bristle-tipped. Older stems that have lost their leaves reveal slightly recurved spines.

Petty Whin Petty Whin Petty Whin
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Petty Whin Petty Whin
Seed pod
Old stem