Ulex, a genus of much branched, very thorny shrubs of the leguminosce, popularly called furze and gorse, and sometimes whin. The simple leaves are mostly reduced to mere prickles, and the numerous short branches terminate in spines; the axillary, yellow flowers have a calyx deeply divided into two lips, and colored like the petals; the stamens are united to form a complete tube; the pod is few-seeded. There are about a dozen species, natives of Europe and northern Africa; two are found in Great Britain, and others are sometimes cultivated. The common furze (V. Europeans) is a very social plant, often covering large tracts, forming a feature in the landscape, and when in flower is very attractive. In exposed situations it is a straggling bush, but in the shelter of woods it grows 10 ft. high, and in southern Europe 18 ft.; it is sometimes seen in collections of shrubbery in this country, but it is difficult to keep in the northern states; in England, though a native, in severe winters it is killed to the ground.
The principal use of the plant is as a food for cattle; it has long been the custom inNormandy to cut the tops, and, after passing them through a mill to crush the spines, to feed them in the green state; it is there cultivated for this purpose, as it has been in parts of England, but its intrinsic value as food does not warrant the cost of its cultivation and preparation; its growth is encouraged in England as a game cover. There is a double-flowered variety, and another form with compact and erect branches called Irish furze. Some regard the dwarf or French furze as a variety of the preceding, while others consider it distinct (U. nanus); it is much smaller, and has deeper yellow flowers, which appear from August to December, while the other blooms in spring.