Remove Gorse(Ulex Europeans) With New Zealand Native Bush




Introduction: Remove Gorse(Ulex Europeans) With New Zealand Native Bush

About: Just your average non engineer in beautiful New Zealand, solving my seemingly unique problems because I cant find any one else that has.

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This is a system, of natural, Organic and highly effective Weed control for the Gorse plant (Ulex europeans) designed to replace it with regenerating native bush.

Gorse has rapidly become a noxious weed in New Zealand as once again in true human style it was taken from a cold climate to a temperate one with out understanding its life cycle... surprise surprise...

Traditionally the eradication of this weed is managed very poorly by people, for the most part because they want a rapid response, and do not understand both;
--The features of this particularly plant that ensure its resistance to the methods of removal
--The affects of removing a plant from and eco system both long term on the land and on weed control.

This instructable details how to utilise the positive aspects of this plant to become its undoing by using it to nurture and protect native plants until they grow over the Gorse which is not shade tolerant, and thus kills it. The need to use other plants ensures that bare land colonists done move straight back in and take over again, as well as "tying" the land together to prevent erosion

Step 1: 2.)What You Will Need.

- A good understanding of the gorse plant (to follow)
- A good Slasher and file
- Adapted spade (file one vertical side to and edge - great for clearing vegetation from plant sites)
- Strong boots or steel capped foot wear - appropriate to a sharp slasher.
- Optional Fertiliser (ie: magamp)
- Appropriate native plants (see later for source)
- Thick leather gloves (gorse pricks...)
- Portable water depending on environment
- Sharp knife
- Good faith!

More photos to come soon... (For entire instructable)

Step 2: Get to Know Gorse

First we get to know our Weed.

Botanical Name: Ulex europeans
Common Name: Gorse
Family: Fabaceae

Gorse is a very invasive plant happy in just about any soil, it thoroughly enjoys full sun and detests and dies in shade of any kind. The seeds are released by heat (both hot sun and fire) and are catapulted from the plant 2-3 meters, and remain viable in the soil for what some predict is 70 years.

As a member of the Fabaceae family (Nitrogen fixers, which include common plants like the garden pea) it is my understanding that Gorse does have the ability to capture and use atmospheric Nitrogen which is ultimately released to the soil and other plants.

This Nitrogen fixing capacity would also tend to be confirmed by recent research also linking Gorse to assisting in the destruction of our water ways by leeching Nitrogen directly in to waterways] Leeching Nitrogen directly in to waterways)'

Nitrogen is one of the Macro nutrients that all living things require in order to make proteins
(Plants get it directly from the soil, animals via their food.) Nitrogen in particularly promotes lush green growth in plants. (Note the N.P.K on most fertiliser - represents Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium the three macro nutrients)

Introduced in to New Zealand as a hedge / ornamental plant from a cooler climate it soon ran rife in NZ warmer climate. The sharp spines forming the foliage ensure it remains essentially unpalatable to most animals, while its high viability seed and enjoyment of clear sun ensure it spreads and re grows well in bare landscapes

How not to effectively get rid of the Gorse plant!

It appears to be common practice to in the urge for a fast out come to first spray and then burn the foliage, the gorse just loves us for it assisting with its life cycle;

First we spray it - and generally succeed in also removing any other herbaceous plants that may be able to compete after we remove the shade from the gorse bush above it.
Then we burn the dry gorse foliage, they heat of which happily release the fire proof seed and flick it all around in to the soil that we make even more acceptable by a nice coating of ash as mulch. The seed are long viable so have no trouble having a rest and then popping up again next summer.

Step 3: Educate Your Self

However if we take the more long term approach, by copying how nature regenerates land, while it might take 5 - 10 years to control the Gorse completely and 15 years for the desired tree height, you will gain control of the gorse, prevent regeneration of it and at the same time keep your land slip free and healthy.

While requiring a good measure of hard yakka, (it's good for you!) This method essentially mimics how nature regenerated left alone.

The first steps is to educate your self by observation'


How would Nature achieve the same?

If you had all the time in the world to watch your patch of scrub and gorse, and were lucky enough to be close to a patch of native bush, over time you would notice that every plant has a function and a place within the regeneration cycle.

> First the herbaceous grasses, scrub and often weedy plants appear. They capture moisture near the ground and help to build up a nutrient rich compost layer. This tier, doesn't really mind what conditions are present, and often enjoy full sun.

> Eventually this layer will be found by seeds delivered by a number of means, and when the conditions are right for that particularly plant, the seeds will (i.e.: the wind, animals poo, bird drops, run off...) germinate.
This tier will also generally enjoy open conditions and plenty of sun light, while growing on to shade the tier before.

> Next the seeds that like germinating in moist earth, with partial sunlight and low wind will appear; these will ultimately grow up and cover the layer before them, and all the plants that like full sun will start to disappear.

> And so the cycle continues - in mature bush when a large tree falls, you see the destruction of the bush around it and how the cycle often restarts from the beginning.

For the purpose of this Instructable we will simplify and refer to the Tiers of regeneration as;

1.) The colonists (Gorse)
2.) The over colonists
3.) The Sub Canopy
4.) The Canopy


go look at your gorse patch and identify where your gorse is growing in relation to all the other vegetation on the property. You will soon notice that';
-- It grows in the open
-- Tends to die out in the shade
-- That there is often happy looking plants growing in the shade of Gorse
-- That where the land is covered in vegetation, even gorse, there are few to no slips.
-- The grass around the gorse is green
-- And in summer you can clearly hear the "snap" of seed dispersal... count the flowers do the math..

Find a regenerating bush reserve in your area (ask the local parks department where that is)
Take a walk through the area and note the different levels and layers of native plants - ideally you can find an area that has some gorse, low scrub, low, medium and large natives in it, and you will notice that there is;
-- There is lot of young happy looking natives below the gorse
-- Where the natives have grown above the gorse (in particular the ....Tea Tree) the gorse is now looking sick
--Then there are areas of medium natives with natural leaf litter and not gorse underneath
-- Large trees with medium and small natives underneath and no Gorse at all...

That s what we are going to re create - the system of layers of regenerating bush, which simple acts;
- To use the Nitrogen fixed by the gorse to grow the natives under the gorse.
- To allow the colonist species then rise above the gorse (fast growing and shady) and kill it
- To allow the other native juveniles to grow happy in the shade (they don't like to be in full sun or exposed)
- To all the nutrient rich leaf litter (humus) to build up and mulch the ground

Now I think you can see how it all works

Step 4: 3) Discover Your Native Friends.

Identify the Native plants appropriate to your area; this is made easier if you know them by site - so consider taking a plant ID course or doing some swot / rote learning.
You can do this by;
- Look under your Gorse, and around your property and neighbourhood
- Asking your local Council, Park service, Plant nursery.

Learn to identify the weeds and noxious weeds and the different tiers.

So in by example, in my location (Northland - New Zealand)

The colonists of bare, burnt or cleared land are a combination weeds and noxious weeds including;
1) Kikuyu grass
2) Ragwort
3) Thistle
4) Gorse
5) Blackberry

And the Natives are;
1) Bracken fern

The over Colonists Are varied, all though the "work horse plants of main interest to us include;
1.) The New Zealand Tea Tree, Manuka Leptospermum scoparium
2.) Kanuka Leptospermum ericoides)

The Sub Canopy while still including some of the larger trees for the Over Colonists, also includes many broad leaves Natives, all these prefer to start off in partial sun light and help to create a well shaded forest floor excluding the possibility of weeds germinating, and helping retain moisture..
This group includes;
Black fern
Five finger
Lance woods

The Canopy
The final stage of regeneration the slow growing but ultimately the biggest trees which will cover all those before, but love to fight their way to the top and will usually die or struggle germinating in full sun light include;

Step 5: 4)Gathering Your Plants

So once you have established your Over Colonists then you need to first source them, along with your other plants, ready for planting in spring. This will require planning, given that the best time to plant new plants in the ground is towards the end of winter when there is still plenty of rain but the danger of frost is past allowing them to get a little established for the spring growth season.

(You can commence the manual work in winter (no snow here) when its cool and nice to work in.)

There are several options depending on your skill;
> Grow your own - from seed and cuttings in pb pots. (This will require a green thumb or consider a polytechnic propagation course; you will need legal access to seed/cuttings.)
> Collect seed and broadcast (haphazard - and legal access to seed)
> Transplant seedling if you have legal access to regenerating. Bush or farmland on the border
> Source from wholesale nursery.

(Dont get caught taking seed or plant material from Crown land (with out a permit) as this is not only and offence but will prove very costly for you)

Set up a bulk storage area with irrigation; get the plants on site prior to the planting season.
(Instructable to come on this and irrigation and propagation watering)

Ideally they should be at least a year in pots before planting - some where I in the order of 50 - 100cm in height

Step 6: Pre Planting

You need to get your slasher really nice and sharp,(instructable to come on this) and start cutting tracks through your Gorse patch (through being the operative word, as we don't wish to destroy the gorse, only provided access as we are going to use it as a nursery plant for the seedlings)

Cut in a grid pattern, marking them if you required.

Where you have aggressive weed ground cover, such as kikuyu, you may need to do some ground preparation, either manually clearing circles or (spraying out circles 1m with spray and landmark a very good dye so you know where you have been that you mix in the spray.)

Step 7: Planting

Towards the end of winter after the frosts have past, whip through your cut lines, and cut holes. This is best done with a modified spade (see Picture) dig a rough square hole - (four vertical cuts) and deposits the soil close.

Take your plants still in their pots and deposit next to the holes (if you think you wont loose any)

Your priority plants at this stage are you aggressive over colonists (in my case - in Northland New Zealand) that is the Tea tree's- Manuka and Kanuka (Leptospurnum scoparium and ericoides)) but you can add other broad leaves too if available

Decide if you need to use a pre fertiliser in the wholes - magamp is one such. But generally natives are hardy and don't require extra.

>Cut the plastic Pb pot off (or pull off if you want to recycle them)
>Make a cut down the side of the root ball left and right to ensure that roots are not bound.
>Drop in fertiliser (if you choose to) swirl around, cover with 2 - 3 cm earth.
>Drop in the plant; crumble the clod of earth around the root ball, covering no higher than 1cm or so over the root ball, press down with both feet either side of plant.
>Water soaks if you choose - or plan to plant just prior to a good rain storm
>Mulch if you choose to (this is and advantage if you can afford to)

>Return regularly and keep the weeds back, not worrying to much about the Gorse only to perhaps keep the tracks open.

When the plants have taken hold ( and you will loose some) and are starting to get close to busting through the Gorse particularly the Tea tree, consider if you want to go through in early spring and cut back some of the gorse so that in the growth spurt that comes with spring they leap ahead. Doing this however you must be careful not to slash your plants among the Gorse.

Step 8: Success

Monitor the aggressive over colonist, the plan is that they grow up and eventually shade out the Gorse, which dies and can't re germinate in the shade.

By this stage the other over colonists, sub canopy and canopy plants have got a head start in the shade. Just as plants do in the natural order of the forest, during this time they are also depositing leaf matter that helps create the mulch layer and seed in the surrounding soil...

The Tea Tree will eventually die out also - as it doesn't enjoying being shaded to much either but by that time you will have rich native bush in most areas... completely self sustaining..

Success Demonstrated!

I was part of a team that used this method to regenerate native bush on the lower slopes of St Pauls Rock, in Northland, New Zealand. ( between the access road and the summit).. having returned there some 20 years later I was just stunned to see the size of the bush that had grown from those seedlings.. and not gorse or grass in sight!

Step 9: Reference

gorse images: Walter Stahel, Murray Severinsen Environment Bay of Plenty
gorse polluting water ways

Metcalf, 2007, The propagation of New Zealand Native Plants

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    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Waiomio

    I know nothing about hemp sorry... but what you need is a plant that will grow fast and shade the gorse for at least the life of the seed, ( approx 70 years) as it can sit there dominant the soil ready for open sky /sun to activate it.

    this is the reason native bush is the best option -using first a fast growing sun cover followed by slow growing canopy plants to take over from the first when it dies.. but the moment there is full sun hitting the ground then the seed can potentially get going again.


    7 years ago

    I know this from growing up in the valley tried to tell the adults this but they didn't want to know. The gorse is over meter tall now. Can I plant a hemp canopy to eradicate thee gorse?


    10 years ago on Step 9

    This instructable is absolutely fantastic. We've just bought a rural property with gorse and I previously had absolutely zero idea what to do. This instructable is clear, logical and encourages understanding and empowerment - really great.

    I do have one question though, in that the gorse bushes on my property are predominantly on a bank with our back lawn at the base of the bank. The back lawn has tiny bits of gorse growing throughout (which the dogs hate!). I started grubbing it out, but then wondered if I was fighting a losing battle if it was being propagated from the larger bushes.

    Is it therefore prudent to cut back some of the large bushes for the sake of my lawn, or recommended just to wait it out?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    ah one of my old stamping grounds - lived in welly for 10 years:-) how big is the bank area? is there mature gorse over the boundary also? - any kind of shade you can put over the gorse will take it out and slow or stop the re growth... of course your ideal is the tea tree's inter planted with the gorse - with extra care and attention lavished on them - ie: summer mulching, weeding and watering you may be able to get a fast tea tree cover ( ask the nursery experts on that one but in ideal conditions i have seen tea tree put on amazing height in a couple of years - ...


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    The bank is around 1500m2. The boundary on this problem side is our driveway so we are able to control it. Now to find some Manuka! Thanks again for your advice.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    recommend you get hold of " the propagation of NewZealand Native Plants, Lawrie metcalf, 2007 isbn:978-1-86962-131-5"

    its explains how to make simply propagtion houses, and the various methods useful for each plant type... or of course if you have cash, and no interest in propagation then find a wholesale nursery in the wellington area ( always get stock from as close to the area you are planting ) Native plants rarely need much care other than perhaps a handful of magamp a little distance below the root ball - and a little water occasionally if that... as mentioned in instructable its often a good thing to go for as stroll in a naturally regenerating area and you will note how things work.. and which plants work the best.... the eastern hills of lower hut used to be a great example...


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    Thanks! I'll check it out :)


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    hey ,

    thanks for your comments ;-)

    and in answer to your question - yes you are pretty much fighting a loosing battle until the gorse up the bank has been suffocated by natives...
    This is because gorse propels its seeds out of the seed capsules during summer ( listen for "crack" in a gorse patch in the height of summer;-) )

    every flower you see has a bunch of seeds at the base to be donated to your lawn, and the other problem is that the seeds are said to remain viable un germinated up to 70years:-)

    so yes in the short term the only thing you could do would be to keep the gorse cut back enough that no flowers are showing to disperse in the heat - although that wont stop the trunks re sprouting madly and all the seeds already in the ground going - whooooohooo - sunlight at last - woosh....

    The best answer for your lawn is a nice bank of native bush ... and this is good for the bank also - keeping it moist but stopping it from sliding away;-)

    of course grubbing is always way better for you then going to the gym,... well apart from your sore back....?

    hope that answers the question - are you in Newzealand?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    Sigh - I feared as much! It's so tempting to attack the gorse with my new and shiny brush cutter, but I will practice restraint. :)

    Yes, we're in Wellington on the edge of the Belmont Regional Park.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I live in northland nz too and have been looking at this part of bare, unhealthy, gorse infected land on my little lifestyle block and now feel like I have a plan, so thank you. I do have two questions though, do you plant all the over colonists, sub canopy and canopy plants at the same time or do you wait for each layer to become somewhat established first? It is also now spring, should I try and start now or wait until next winter?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    opps forgot to answer the second bit - i would recommend late winter early spring would be a good time to plant - so the plants still get some rain and a chance to get some roots down before it drys out.

    having said that if you currently have a good stock of seedling tea tree in pots or you have access to seedling tea tree in the ground you could transplant, and were able to get the ground work done pronto - then id say go for it just with tea tree, even consider seed broadcast... they may need watering if this summer comes on strong...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your reply. I had a good look over all the gorse the other day and do love the plan of having regenerative (if that's a word) bush on some of the land, especially the steeper bits to kill off the gorse. Much more fun to play in. Apparently there used to be pines, hence the clay and nutrient depletion.the gorse is in one main patch, (the part I would like to regenerate) however some other bits are popping up here and there and I think that I may need to spray those bits. The other thing too is that I see all the flower heads (which are dangerously beautiful) and don't want them to spread all over the place while I get some seedlings going and wait for next year. Any ideas? If you are up this way and would like to have a look and give some advice that would be simply wonderful.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    hey there,

    Northland! - where i first discovered this method:-) - where abouts are you exactly?(i am currently in Auckland - could be up for a site visit in my holidays coming up...)

    well i guess the ideal would be to do it tier by tier but so far we haven't simply because it takes time - and that would spread it out even further - so every project completed so far has been every thing at once (bar perhaps the canopy plants which tier which would benefit from some surrounds establishment) - with the emphasis on the The New Zealand Tea Tree, Manuka Leptospermum scoparium
    and Kanuka Leptospermum ericoides)

    i should mention though - don't be mislead that gorse infected land is unhealthy - quite the opposite given the nitrogen fixing ability of gorse - that's why its such a great nursery for the natives


    11 years ago on Introduction

    The last comment has a typo which may confuse some people. As a legume Gorse has root nodules which harbour nitrogen fixing bacteria (in a mutualistic arrangement). The excess nitrogen compond are then leached INTO the soil and promote growth of other plants.


    12 years ago on Step 9

    You have certainly put the instruct in instruct-ables!
    I live on the other side of the globe, as far north as you are south, where it is as cold as you are hot, and I've never even seen a gorse bush -- and yet this instructable is 100% relevant for me. Your careful explanation of the process gives me the insight I need to analyze and work with the plants growing in ary area, even one as different as mine. Thanks for the giving us the why with the how.


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 9

    wonderful thanks:-) nice to get your feed back - and yep it sure took some writing but i am glad you find it useful... love to hear about any applications you discover for the same method..


    13 years ago on Introduction

    As the manager of Crown land, scenic and historic reserves, in northern New Zealand some thirty years ago, I introduced this method of gorse suppression to promote the regrowth of native flora. One site in particular, Marsden Cross Historic Reserve in the Bay of Islands, demonstrates the efficacy of this method. The site, about 30 acres of steep hillside acquired from the adjacent landowner was almost entirely covered in gorse. The adjacent farm manager argued that we should use herbicides to clear the gorse and, in fact, there were helicopter incursions on the upper slopes when the pilot formed the habit of emptying his tanks inside the reserve. After the reserve was completely fenced and feral goats eradicated, the neighbouring landowner (against the wishes of his farm manager) finally agreed to allow the Crown to pursue a policy of natural regeneration and gorse suppression. An inspection of the reserve by the writer in 2003 conclusively proves the effectiveness of this technique. Leptospermum species has topped and replaced gorse over almost all of the reserve and a variety of natives thrive in a sheltered stream bed. No planting was carried out on the upper slopes, but native species were planted by the sea shore and in the stream valley. All now appear to be thriving. In other reserves we did used the method described by agatornz of cutting a narrow grid and inserting ti tree and other natives plants. This approach also proved efficacious.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Is it true that gorse seeds can stay alive for up to 20 years before germination.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    yes actually its my understanding that he seeds are capable for germinating some 70 years afer landing in the soil... just proves burning it is a waste of time as i say in the instructable!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Where I lived in Scotland the gorse was very rampant and most farmers would burn it off as it has lots of dead growth inside and burn very well. It would always grow back though after a short while.