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Ulex europaeus

WARNING! Invasive species in the Azores and on Madeira, but native in continental Portugal.

Densely-banched shrub with robust thorns, up to 2-meter tall. Showy yellow flowers.

Scientific name: Ulex europaeus L.

Common name: common gorse, furze, whin

Family: Fabaceae

Status in Portugal: invasive species in the Azores and on Madeira (listed with * in the Decree-Law no. 92/2019, 10th July). Introduced from mainland Portugal where it is native.

Risk Assessment Score: This species is ranked 3rd in the TOP 100 of Terrestrial Invasive Flora and Fauna in Macaronesia

Synonymy: Ulex europaeus subsp. borealis Rothm., Ulex europaeus subsp. europaeus

Last update: 28/11/2016 | Profile prepared by the Azores Biodiversity Group Team, from the University of the Azores.

Help us map this species on our citizen-science platform


How to recognise it

Very branched thorny shrub, up to 2 m tall. Yellow flowers.

Leaves: all reduced to rigid spiny phyllodes. Spines up to 2.5 cm.

Flowers: bracteoles below the calyx are greater than 2 mm; densely villous and persistent yellowish calyx, ranging 10-17 mm, papilionaceous yellow corolla ranging 15-20 mm.

Fruits: pod 14-19 mm x 6-8 mm, slightly compressed, villous with 4-6 seeds, brownish green, reniform.

Flowering: From February to June.

Similar species

There are several similar species of the Ulex genus, but they are distinguished because this is the only one whose bracteoles are larger than 2 mm.

Characteristics that aid invasion

The plant reaches sexual maturity in 2 to 3 years and reproduces both seminally, producing hundreds to thousands of seeds / plant / year, and vegetatively, through plant fragments. It is favored by changes in the territory, being transported by machines and by humans.


Native distribution area

Central and Western Europe, including Mainland Portugal.

Distribution (as exotic species) in Portugal

Archipelagos dos Açores (todas as islands) e da Madeira (islands Selvagens e ilha da Madeira) .

For more detailed locations of this species, check the online interactive map. This map is still incomplete – we need your help! Contribute by submitting records of the location of the species where you can find it.


Geographical areas where the is record of Ulex europaeus

Other places where the species is invasive

Southern Europe, North Africa, India, China Indonesia, America (North, South and Central), Saint Helena island, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Pacific.

Introduction reasons

Intentional introduction for ornamental purposes.

Preferential invasion environments

Cliffs, abandoned pastures, ravines, laurifolia forest edges and Macaronesian scrubland.

Although legally not considered invasive in Mainland Portugal, it shows invasive behaviour in some locations in the Azores and on Madeira.

Impacts on ecosystems

The species forms dense patches that disrupt the structure, abundance and succession of the ecosystems it invades. It prevents the development of native vegetation and reduces species diversity through competition and recruitment.

Economic impacts

Potentially high costs in applying control measures.

Natura 2000 Network habitats more prone to impacts

– Mediterranean Sclerophyllous Forests (Macaronesian laurel forests) (9360).


Controlling an invasive species demands a well-planned management, which includes the determination of the invaded area, identifying the causes of invasion, assessing the impacts, defining the intervention priorities, selecting the adequate control methodologies and their application. Afterwards it is fundamental to monitor the efficiency of the methodologies and recuperation of the intervened area as to perform, whenever necessary, the follow-up control.

The control methodologies used for Ulex europaeus include:

Physical + chemical control

Mature plants can be cut and stumps treated with glyphosate. There are references that the shoots and whole plants can be sprayed with active ingredients dicamba, triclopyr, or 2,4-D and triclopyr. Only herbicides approved for the species and in accordance with the law in force shuld be used, following label and producer application instructions.

Chemical control:

Seedlings can be sprayed with herbicide (active ingredients: picloram or triclopyr). Only herbicides approved for the species and in accordance with the law in force should be used, following label and producer application instructions.


Burning removes bushes but encourages seed germination. Grazing is commonly used afterwards to control seedlings and shoots.

Visit the webpage How to Control for additional and more detailed information about the correct application of these methodologies.

Fernandes FM, Garcia Gallo A, Silva L (2008) Ulex europaeus L. In: Silva L, E Ojeda Land & JL Rodríguez Luengo (eds.) Flora e Fauna Invasora da Macaronésia. TOP 100 nos Açores, Madeira e Canárias, pp. 205-208. ARENA, Ponta Delgada.

Schäfer H (2005) Flora of the Azores. A Field Guide. Second Enlarged edition. Margraf Publishers, Weikersheim.

The Plant List. Ulex europaeus L. Disponível: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/search?q=Ulex+europaeus [Consultado 08/10/2015].

Weber E (2003) invasive">Invasive plant species of the world: a reference guide to environmental weeds. Reino Unido: CABI, 2003. ISBN 0851996957. 360pp.