Tag Archives: shrubs







Ulex europaeus or common names: Gorse, furze, furse, or whin

Taxonomy: Kingdom: Plantae; Division: Magnoliophyta; Class: Magnoliopsida; Order: Fabales; Family: Fabaceae; Subfamily: Faboideae; Genus: Ulex; Species: U. europaeus; Binomial name: Ulex europaeus L.

Gorse is a common name for the Ulex europaeus, a genus of roughly 20 species of spiny evergreen shrubs that are native to Western Europe and Northwest Africa. It is closely related to the ‘Broom’ Family hosting green stems with small leaves. The plant is extremely dry in its branches and leaves – making it a severe fire hazard with an explosive burst with wildland fires. Because of the quick fire explosions and passing on of the waves of flames – gorse is very good at withstanding fire damage and spreads its seed pods best when torched by wildfire. Burnt stumps will sprout new growth from the roots. The branches host extreme spininess with shoots branching out 1-4 cms long. It can grow up to 2-3 meters tall (7-10 feet). Leaves of younger plants are trifoliate resembling a small clover leaf before they evolve into scales or small spines. All of the species host yellow flowers. Many of these species grow in sunny sites in dry, sandy soils. Flowers bloom from late autumn throughout the winter season with flowers strongest in the spring. Some gorse is always in flower and host a coconut-like scent. Gorse is the perfect environment for wildlife nesting and protecting its inhabitants from predators due to the dense thorny cover.
Culinary: The flowers are edible and often used in salads, tea, and in the manufacture of a non-grape based wine. It is high in protein and commonly used to feed livestock as fodder.
Common uses: Used as livestock fodder. Bundles of gorse used to fire traditional bread ovens. According to Jasmine ( jasmine@archaeosophia.co.uk / http://www.archaeosophia.co.uk ) “Gorse may also used in the vitrification of Iron Age hill-forts in Scotland; experimental archaeology has shown that the temperatures it can reach are high enough to turn rock to glass. The fires would have to be kept burning for about a week to maintain the process… In 1934, Vere Gordon Childe and his colleague designed a test wall that was 12 feet long, six feet wide and six feet high, which was built for them at Plean Colliery in Stirlingshire. “They used old fireclay bricks for the faces and pit props as timber, and filled the cavity between the walls with small cubes of basalt rubble. They covered the top with turf and then piled about four tons of scrap timber and brushwood against the walls and set fire to them. Because of a snowstorm in progress, a strong wind fanned the blazing mixture of wood and stone so that the inner core did attain some vitrification of the rock”. Modern foresters can attest to gorse fires raging across hillsides well in excess of 800 degrees centigrade on open ground – a covered, stoked fire fed over time would be capable of vitrification and gorse not only freely covers most Scottish hillsides, but is one species which seems to actively flourish after fires – the perfect renewable resource.” [Thanks Jasmine!]
Folklore: ‘When gorse is in flower, kissing is in fashion” is a common rhyme.




The Curraugh, Kildare, Ireland

Our Official Page on Gorse is now located at: http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/treelore/gorse/.

Our Official Page on “Foxglove” is located at http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/treelore/foxglove/.

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Common Box

Common Box
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Common Box
Buxus sempervirens [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Buxales: Buxaceae: Buxus: Buxus sempervirens ]

Common Names: Common Box, European Box, Boxwood.

It is native to coastal regions especially in western and southern Europe, Northwest Africa, southwest Asia, from southern England south to northern Morocco and east through the Mediterranean to Turkey.


The Common Box is a very dense small-leaved evergreen, growing usually naturally in coastal regions, and loves chalky soil. It hosts dark green to yellow-green oval glossy leathery leaves arranged in opposite pairs upwardcs of 15-30 mm long and 5-13 broad, that is home to a unusual sweet smell that gives blossom to small tufty yellow flowers in late winter. The flowers are hermaphrodite and inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, with no petals or insect pollinated and bears a 3-lobed capsule bearing fruit that contains from 3-6 seeds. It is slow growing and shade tolerant. It grows upward of 1-9 meters tall with upwards of a 20 cm diamtere trunk. The box loves soil derived from chalk, limestone, and is often found as an understory in forests of larger trees.

Box works best in most normal soils, especially chalky soils, and where it can reach its ultimate height of 30 feet. Its used to being exposed to the wind absorbing that impact. It grows 4-6 inches a year on average, likes dry shade and wet sites.

Common Uses:
Commonly usd for topiary work, landscaping, and gardening especially as hedges. Wood is very hard and heavy which puts excellent applications as a base wood for cabinets, clarinets, engravings, marquetry, woodturning, tool handles, mallet heads, and as a substitute for ivory.

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
The leaves were once used as an alternate for quinine and used to reduce fevers. Box contains the alkaloid “buxine” that causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, muscular spasms, and paralysis. The leaves are poisonous. Also planted to keep livestock out of gardens. Oils from the leaves can cause skin rashes. Buxine will also cause respiratory paralysis in humans and livestock. Some of it has also been used as a chemotherapeutic agent in cancer therapy. French works claim an extract made from Box is helpful in reducing the amount of HIV virus in an infected person.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History: The plant is named after the latin name “Buxus” for “box” because of its use in making small, finely carved boxes called “pyxos” in Greece. “Buxus” is also Latin for “Flute”. “Box” is believed not to be able to be read by sorcerers and witches who usually can tell you the numbers of every branch, twig, and leaf of every plant – but box. Apparently the “Box” is so compact that when a witch tries to count the tiny leaves, she loses her place and has to start again. It is believed to be planted by doorways to prevent witches from entry – as it should captivate the witches attention and have them stop to count the leaves over and over again forgetting about entry into the house. Also planting in a flower bed will distract witches wishing to steal plants as it is an ingredient in flying ointments.

Common Box
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland