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Book cover - Common Weeds of New ZealandAn Illustrated Guide to
Common Weeds
of New Zealand


Ulex europaeus


Reproduced from
Common Weeds of New Zealand
by Ian Popay, Paul Champion & Trevor James
ISBN 0 473 09760 5
by kind permission of the
New Zealand Plant Protection Society

Publication or other use of images or descriptive text on these pages is unauthorised unless written permission is obtained from the authors and publisher.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the publication Common Weeds of New Zealand must always be given.

Available from Touchwood Books

Ulex europaeus - gorse

Very spiny, woody perennial shrub up to 2 m or more tall. Glorious yellow flowers mostly in autumn, winter and early spring, followed by explosive seed pods.

  • Flowers Magnificent massed display of solitary, golden-yellow pea-like flowers, 15-20 mm in diameter. Flowers May-Nov.
  • Fruit Black pods, up to 25 mm long, with soft grey hairs. Pods split explosively to disperse the few shiny, smooth round seeds.
  • Leaves True leaves are on the seedlings only, changing to narrow, deeply furrowed, rigid spines 15-30 mm long, with shorter lateral spines.
  • Stems Erect or spreading, branched, deeply-furrowed, with many stiff spines.
  • Roots Deep, branched, woody roots.


River-beds, pasture, scrubland, forest margins and waste land.


Widespread throughout NZ including Stewart, Chatham, Campbell and Auckland Islands. Originally from western Europe to Italy.


New Zealand's worst weed, originally introduced as a hedging plant and ornamental, and now established on thousands of hectares of hill and less intensively farmed country. Despite the expenditure of millions of dollars on herbicides, discing, slashing and burning, this weed is still a huge and expensive problem. It recovers quickly after being burnt, but, in many areas, if left undisturbed for long enough, it acts as a nurse crop for the regeneration of native bush. Gorse is also a problem weed in parts of Spain, Portugal, Chile, Ireland, coastal Oregon and southern Australia. Several insect species have been introduced in attempts at biological control. The gorse seed weevil (Apion ulicis) has become established in most parts of NZ, and reduces seed production considerably, but much seed survives. The gorse spider mite (Tetranychus lintearius) established well in some areas, but predatory insects reduce its effectiveness in some places. Subject to Pest Plant Management Strategies in most regions of NZ. Details are available from individual regional councils or unitary authorities.

Derivation of botanical name

Ulex (Lat.) = gorse; europaeus (Lat.) = European

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Last updated: July 13, 2014