The reference state for European gorse (Ulex europaeus) is as a co-dominant species of dry heath habitats, typically with ericoid species. It has aphyllous, evergreen leaves and is common in the more oceanic western areas of the UK. In Wales, it is an extremely common species and often dominant in stands of dry heath. It also occurs as ‘stand-alone’ patches of scrub and as a common hedgebank species, particularly in the south-west.
European gorse is a competitive ‘stress-tolerating’ species which, being a nitrogen-fixing legume, can modify acidic soils to its own advantage. Historically, gorse was cut or burnt to prevent it forming large impenetrable stands. However, faced with increasing numbers of walkers, farmers have removed grazing animals from the coast and effectively rendered gorse cutting redundant as a form of management.
Consequently, European gorse is increasing around the Welsh coastline and often overtops and replaces western gorse (Ulex gallii) in coastal heaths.