Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Gorse is an invasive spiny shrub that forms dense impenetrable thickets.

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How does this weed affect you?

Gorse is an invasive spiny shrub that forms dense impenetrable thickets. It can reduce pasture carrying capacity, block access and provide shelter for pests. In National Parks and other environmental areas, gorse can compete with native vegetation and increase the risk of bushfires—as it contains flammable oils and retains dead vegetation, increasing fuel loads.

What does it look like?

Gorse is a spiny, branched, evergreen, perennial shrub, which commonly grows 1–2.5 m in height. It is long-lived (up to 30 years) and has a deep and extensive root system.

Key identification features 

  • Stems are soft, green and hairy when young, becoming brown and woody when mature. Each stem ends in a single sharp spine. 
  • Leaves are fiercely spiny and have a waxy coating, are 6–30 mm long and 1.5 mm wide. They are dark green, stiff and stalkless. Seedlings have soft trifoliate (three-leaflet) leaves that are reduced to spines as the plant matures.
  • Flowers are bright yellow and pea-like, 15–25 mm long and have a distinct coconut scent.
  • Seed pods are 10–20 mm long, 6 mm wide and covered in fine hairs. They are oblong in shape, grey, turning to black when mature. Each pod contains 2-6 seeds.
  • Seeds are brown to green in colour, very hard, heart-shaped and up to 4 mm long.

Where is it found?

Gorse is native to Europe and has become a major weed in temperate western USA, New Zealand, Chile and Hawaii.

Initially introduced to Australia during the early 1800s as a hedge and ornamental plant, gorse is now considered a problematic weed across temperate Australia. Major infestations occur throughout Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the Australian
Capital Territory, with smaller infestations in southern Western Australia.

In New South Wales (NSW), gorse is generally confined to the cool, temperate parts of the state. The largest infestations occur on the Southern and Central Tablelands, including the Blue Mountains and the Lithgow area. Smaller infestations occur in the
Central West, Hawkesbury/Nepean, Illawarra, New England and Murrumbidgee areas. All known infestations in NSW are subject to either control or eradication programs.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Gorse during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2024)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

Gorse reproduces by seed. It is spread mainly by water movement and contaminated mud on vehicles, and animal movement may also contribute to dispersal.

Seeds fall mostly around the plant, although when conditions are hot and dry, seed pods burst open and shoot the seeds away from the plant. Infestations can quickly thicken and spread, particularly when growing along water courses.

Each plant can produce thousands of hard-coated seeds each year, and the seeds can live in the soil for up to 30 years. It is possible for soil seed banks to contain up to 40 000 gorse seeds per square metre. Germination takes place annually, although significant germination and survival events also occur after fire or soil disturbance.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Gorse is highly adaptable and can withstand a variety of rainfall and soil conditions. It grows in a range of areas, including bushlands, pastures, roadsides, creek banks, along railway lines and in neglected areas such as quarries and mine sites.

Acknowledgements

Adapted from CRC Weed Management Guide (2003) Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Reviewed by: Michael Michelmore Edited by: Elissa van Oosterhout

References

CRC Weed Management (2003). WoNS Weed Management Guide:Gorse (Ulex europaeus). CRC for Australian Weed Management and the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage.

Gouldthorpe, J. (2006) Gorse National Best Practice Manual–managing gorse (Ulex europaeus L.) in Australia, State of Tasmania.

Harvey, K.J., McConnachie, A.J. Sullivan, P. Holtkamp, R. and Officer, D. (2021). Biological control of weeds: a practitioner's guide for south east Australia. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Orange.  

Hosking, J.R., Sainty G.R., Jacobs S.W.L & Dellow L.L (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK.

Michelmore, M. & Osmond, R. (2006). Primefact 255 Gorse and brooms. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

More information

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Control

Once gorse becomes established it is very difficult to eradicate due its long-lived seeds. 

Grazing

Sheep and goats eat gorse seedlings. Sheep can suppress seedlings but will have little impact on adult plants. Large numbers of goats can reduce the bulk of adult plants. 

Physical removal

Plants are easier to dig out after rain when soil is moist. Remove the whole plant, including all roots. 

By machine

Slashing repeatedly suppresses but does not kill plants. It can help allow access for other treatments.

Biocontrol

Biological control agents should only be used in areas with dense infestations. Four biological control agents are suitable for redistribution for gorse:

  • Gorse seed weevil (Exapion ulicis), which is widespread.
  • Gorse thrips (Sericothrips staphylinus), which is widespread but numbers are still low. 
  • Gorse soft shoot moth (Agonopterix umbellana).
  • Gorse mite (Tetranychus lintearius).

Contact your local council weeds officer for information on using biological control agents.

Herbicides

Spraying

Spray actively growing plants. Adding a wetter as per label can improve effectiveness of herbicides. 

Cut stump method

 Cut trunks or stems, and apply herbicide to the stump within 15 seconds.

Stem injection

Drill or make cuts into the sapwood and fill with herbicide within 15 seconds. 

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 L per 100 L of water plus wetter 200 mL/ 100 L
Comments: Apply to actively growing bushes. Spray to wet all foliage. Apply all year round, but only to actively growing plants. Always add PULSE or equivalent penetrant otherwise reduced results will occur.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Metsulfuron-methyl 300 g/kg + Aminopyralid 375 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 30 g per 100 L of water + Pulse Penetrant (200 mL/100 L)
Comments: Spray bushes up to 2 m tall. Ensure thorough spray penetration and coverage of the whole plant.
Withholding period: Pastures - Grazing for meat production or cutting for animal feed: Do not graze for 56 days after application. See label for further details
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors) + 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: High/Moderate


Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg with Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: A mix of 10 g metsulfuron methyl herbicide plus 200 mL of glyphosate(360) per 100 L of water.
Comments: Apply to bushes up to two metres tall. Ensure thorough spray penetration and coverage of whole plant.
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon® Extra)
Rate: 250 or 350 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: High volume spray rate, cover all the foliage to the point of runoff. In spring and summer use the lower rate for plants 1-1.5 m tall and higher rate for plants over 1.5 m. In autumn use the higher rate for all plants. For best results add a compatible wetter at 100 mL per 100 L of water (see label for compatible wetters)
Withholding period: Where product is used to control woody weeds in pastures there is a restriction of 12 weeks for use of treated pastures for making hay and silage; using hay or other plant material for compost, mulch or mushroom substrate; or using animal waste from animals grazing on treated pastures for compost, mulching, or spreading on pasture/crops.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon® Extra)
Rate: 500 mL in 100 L of water
Comments: Winter treatment. High volume spray rate, cover all the foliage to the point of runoff. For best results add a compatible wetter at 100 mL per 100 L of water (see label for compatible wetters).
Withholding period: Where product is used to control woody weeds in pastures there is a restriction of 12 weeks for use of treated pastures for making hay and silage; using hay or other plant material for compost, mulch or mushroom substrate; or using animal waste from animals grazing on treated pastures for compost, mulching, or spreading on pasture/crops.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Picloram 44.7 g/L + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump/stem injection application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm .
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Triclopyr 200 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 375 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spray actively growing plants from September to March with a handgun. Thoroughly cover all of the foliage to the point of run-off.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 250 or 350 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: High volume spray rate, cover all the foliage to the point of runoff. In spring and summer use the lower rate for plants 1-1.5 m tall and higher rate for plants over 1.5 m. In autumn use the higher rate for all plants. For best results add a compatible wetter at 100 mL per 100 L of water (see label for compatible wetters)
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 500 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Winter treatment. High volume spray rate, cover all the foliage to the point of runoff. For best results add a compatible wetter at 100 mL per 100 L of water (see label for compatible wetters).
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Triclopyr 600 g/L (Garlon® 600)
Rate: 170 or 340 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Spray spring to mid-summer. Use the higher rate on older hardened plants. Add non-ionic wetting agent at rate of 125 mL/100 L water.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All pest plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
All of NSW Prohibition on certain dealings
Must not be imported into the state, sold, bartered, exchanged or offered for sale.
Central Tablelands
An exclusion zone is established for Mid-Western Regional Council, Cabonne Council, Orange City Council and Cowra Shire Council areas. A core infestation area is established for Upper Macquarie County Council area (Lithgow Council, Bathurst Regional Council, Oberon Council and Blayney Council areas).
Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Containment)
Within exclusion zone: Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Within core infestation area: Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should mitigate spread of the plant from their land. A person should not buy, sell, move, carry or release the plant into the environment. Land managers should reduce the impact of the plant on assets of high economic, environmental and/or social value.
Greater Sydney
An exclusion zone is established for the Blue Mountains City Council area. The rest of the region is classified as the core infestation area.
Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Containment)
Whole of region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Within exclusion zone: Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found. Within core infestation area: Land managers should mitigate spread of the plant from their land. A person should not buy, sell, move, carry or release the plant into the environment.
Hunter Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Eradication)
Notify local control authority if found. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant.
Murray Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Eradication)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found.
North Coast Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Eradication)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found.
North West Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found.
Northern Tablelands Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Eradication)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found.
Riverina Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Eradication)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found. Your local biosecurity weeds officer can help to identify, advise on control, and how to remove this weed.
South East
Containment zone: Goulburn Mulwaree, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Monaro, Wingecarribee and Yass Valley Local Government Areas. Exclusion zone: Whole of region except containment zone.
Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Containment)
Whole of region: Land managers mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Within exclusion zone: Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. Notify local control authority if found. Within containment zone: Land managers should reduce the impact of the plant on assets of high economic, environmental and/or social value. Land managers should mitigate spread of the plant from their land.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.

Reviewed 2024