Washington State Weeds



Ulex europaeus • Class B

Family Name: Fabaceae  (fab-AY-see-ee)
Common: Legume, pea, or bean family
Genus: Ulex (YOO-leks)
Meaning: The ancient Latin name for this plant
Species: europaeus  (yoo-ROH-pay-us)
Meaning: Of or from Europe

Gorse is a dense, spiny, evergreen shrub resembling Scotch broom in appearance. It grows up to 10 feet tall with upright, angular stems that change from green to brown as they mature.

Its spreading branches end in sharp spines and have stiff spine-like leaves about 2 inches long.

Leaves have 3 thin leaflets which become spiny as they mature. Spines are also found in the leaf axils.

In February its yellow, pea-like flowers begin to bloom.  Flowers grow in clusters near the ends of branches.

When ripe its hairy, brown seed pods burst, spitting seeds up to several feet. Seeds are smooth, shiny, and olive green to brown in color. 

 Why Is it a Noxious Weed?

 . Once established, Gorse spreads rapidly, crowding out other plants and forming dense thickets. Gorse has a high oil content and a growth pattern of dry, dead vegetation at the center of the shrub.  These two factors create a serious fire hazard.

Where Does it Grow?

It grows best in sandy or coarse, gravelly soil. It likes gravel bars, fence rows, river banks, open areas and grasslands. From there it has the ability to encroach upon agricultural or recreational lands. 


This plant produces seeds prolifically; the bursting seed pods scatter seed for several feet. Animals, machinery, and water also carry the seed. Seeds remain viable in the soil for up to 40 years. 

Control Options:
  • The best control is to prevent infestations from occurring, never allow Gorse to set seed. The most effective control programs for Gorse will include a combination of herbicides, burning, cultivation or mowing. 
  • For small sites with only a few plants, dig up the plants, or use a weed wrench to pull them up. Be careful to remove as much root as possible, so the plants will not re-sprout. 

  • Mechanical control, such as mowing or brush cutting is ineffective, since gorse plants re-grow all times year round. 

  • Small isolated infestations can be controlled with pesticides containing the active ingredient glyphosate though the waxy cuticle inhibits herbicide penetration. This methoed requires repeated applications of pesticides over several years to control large infestations of gorse. Application methods vary for the type and size of the infestation. Foliar applications, spraying the leaves and stems, are recommended for large infestations. For smaller infestations apply product to cut stems after cutting off the upper portions of the plant.
  • For selective control of gorse in agricultural settings (pastures, hayfields, etc.), an herbicide containing the active ingredient aminopyralid may be a preferred choice. Aminopyralid products will not harm grass and can be used around livestock (provided all label precautions are followed). 
  • When using herbicides be sure to read and follow all label instructions and obey all label precautions. (Note: pesticide product registration is renewed annually and product names and formulations may vary from year to year. 
  • To minimize any harmful impact on bees and other pollinators, timing is important.  Ideally, treat plants before blooming.  If treatment after blooming is necessary, do control work early in the morning, or in the evening when bees are less active.

More Information:

 Download our Flyer or visit Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board Here. Photos by Beki Shoemaker, Pierce County Noxious Weed Control Board. 


More Pictures: