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Andalusian gorse (Ulex baeticus)

Diputación de Málaga
Aulaga y romero en flor y Sierra Almijara al fondo. Etapa 7. Gran Senda de Málaga

Andalusian gorse (Ulex baeticus)

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Plant Life > Trees, Bushes and Herbaceous Plants

IDENTIFICATION

It is a very variable bearing bush (up to 2 m high), from an erect shape with open branches to forming compact pads. The stems and branches are covered with very showy furs and alternating spikes, very developed and straight. In turn, these spikes can have secondary spikes as large as the primary ones. The flower is of an intense yellow colour (up to 12 mm long), of corolla so long that the calyx, with four petals (typical legume flower: banner, keel and two wings that give it the appearance of a butterfly). The flowers are located on the armpits of the spikes. The fruit is a legume approximately as long as the calyx, green coloured when they are young and almost black once ripe.

WHERE DOES IT LIVE?

It has a preference for limestone grounds, although it can also be found in acidic soils. As its roots have symbiont bacteria able to fix nitrogen, it is used to restore degraded soils. It usually takes place in slope areas with a great sun exposure, from 300 to 1900 meters above the sea level. It bears frosts and extreme temperatures very well. It really prospers in shallow, rocky and dry soils.

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

The gorse is a monoic species with hermaphrodite flowers (flowers with both sexes on the same plant), which are grouped on the extremity of the branches. It has a cross pollination, which means than fecundation does not occur between the flowers of a single specimen, but it does between different specimens. The pollination stage is aided by insects (entomophil). It has a wide range of flowering and fruiting periods. Fruit opening is explosive, due to the dehydration of the back and ventral tissues. It exploits the warmest days to spread seeds. The legume has several tough and brown or black coloured seeds. It flourishes from December to June and fruits in summer.

WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN MÁLAGA?

The gorses are common plants in the Malaga landscape. Their yellow tones stand out in the fields in a majority of the province. But actually there are two species, very similar if they are not examined in detail. Each one of them is very common in an area. The Andalusian gorse is more abundant in the western part and specifically in the Ronda mountain range, whereas the Moorish gorse Ulex parviflorus is more common in the Eastern part, coastal mountain ranges and Axarquia. In the Great Path (Gran Senda), the Andalusian gorse can be observed on stages 22 to 26. 

CURIOUS FACTS

Ecologically, the gorse is a very valuable plant. Apart from contributing to fix and improve the soil quality, it is used to restore degraded soils. It is a pyrophyte species, which means that it  burns easily. That is why it has been often used to turn ovens and boilers on. It is also a plant that grows very fast after fires, helping to prepare the burnt ground for the vegetative community to recover and it is able to grow after other plants.

SIMILAR SPECIES

It can be confused with the Moorish gorse (Ulex parviflorus), which has much smaller flowers (parviflorus) grouped in much more numerous groups. It is a less robust plant than the Ulex baeticus.

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