Colour practice: Gorse

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a spiny evergreen shrub. It is considered a threat to forest ecosystems where I live, and arrived as part of the colonial project. Like its lookalike, broom (Cytisus scoparius), it was introduced by settlers as a garden or ornamental hedge, part of the violent transformation of the land. Gorse has become known as an “invasive,” a vigorous mover and spreader, and really good at sequestering nitrogen and outcompeting other plant communities.

Nearby my home, gorse is abundant. It is spreading on the steep slope where the ocean meets the land. It likes infertile soil, dry clearings. It moves into disturbed areas, and the slope by my home is disturbed by increasingly intense winter storm patterns, an effect of climate change.

Gorse is a great plant for ethical harvesting where I live. A single plant can produce up to 18,000 seeds. It’s deliciously scented yellow velvety petals bloom in late winter and early spring. The petals make a beautiful joyful yellow liquidy colour. Collecting the petals is a study in paying attention, moving slowly to avoid the prickly spines. As I pick the petals, I become tangled, entangled, the spiny prickles grabbing my clothing. At home later, I mix the petals with hot water and a sprinkle of alum, leaving it for a few hours. It’s then ready for new life on paper.

A photograph showing a slope with gorse

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