Furze, or Ulex, L. an indigenous plant, consisting of two species, the principal of which is, the Europoeus, Common Furze, Whins, or GorzE, which grows on heaths, road-sides, and pastures. It abounds particularly in the county of Cornwall, where it is very productive, growing to the height of six or eight feet 5 and flowering from May till late in autumn.
Furze thrives in a light s3ndy soil, though it grows more luxuriantly in rich land. It is propa-gated from seed, which is sown in the months of February, March, and April, or in the beginning of May, in the proportion of 6lbs, to an acre ; either alone, or with bar-ley, oats, or buck-wheat. But it is not mowed till the year after it has been sown, in the month of October, or somewhat earlier, when it will continue till Christmas, and be fit for use till March.
Furze will grow for several years, and produce from ten to fifteen tons per acre, which, in the feeding of cattle, are equal to the same quantity of hay : hence it is in some places regularly stacked.
This plant is of the greatest •utility, especially as food for horses, which, when it is recently bruised, cat it in preference to hay, and even corn. Goats and sheep likewise teed upon the tender tops.—> Cows also, that are fed with it, yield nearly the same proportion of pure and untainted milk, as when pasturing on meadow grass. For this purpose, the furze is crushed and reduced in a machine, consisting of a large circular stone, set on its edge, with a Wooden axis passing through the centre. One end of this axis is fixed upon a pivot placed in the centre of a circular area, and at the other end is fastened a yoke, to which a draught-horse is attached. As the animal moves, the stone revolves round its axis in a circular groove, or trough of hewn stone, in a manner similar to sugar-bakers, or tanners-mills. In this trough the whins or furze are placed, and bruised by the weight of the stone, as it passes over them : after being well crushed, they are raised up (by means of a three- pronged fork; in the form of a kind of matted cake, which being set upright, is again broken by the wheel revolving on its axis. Thus, the operation is continued, new surfaces being successively presented to the action of the wheel, till the whole is reduced to a soft pulpy mass.— During the continuance of this process, however, it will be requisite to pour sufficient water on the furze, at different times, as, without such precaution, the plant could with difficulty be rendered soft enough to he eaten by cattle. To the furze thus crushed, chopped straw is sometimes added, in the proportion of J cwt. to a ton of furze. This operation may be effectually performed by the mill, employed in grinding apples, or expressing oil. But, in some parts of England, the prickly points of the whins are merely broken with heavy mailets on blocks of wood, and in this state given to cattle, which eat them eagerly.
Furze is likewise employed for heating ovens, as it burns rapidly, and emits a great degree of heat; when consumed, its ashes are used for a ley, which is of considerable service in washing coarse linen.
This plant is also eminently adapted to the formation of fences, especially on the banks of rivers ; as by its close and prickly branches it retains the collected earth, and is more easily procured than faggots. An instance of this fact occurs in the 52d vol. of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, for the year 1761, where it is stated, that locks and dam-heads may be raised at one-tenth part of the usual expence, by means of furze; for a thin perpendicular "wall of stone and lime, or a wall of deal boards two inches thick, is the dearest part of the whole work. Close to such a wall, on the interior side, is formed a mound of furze, intermixed with gravel, six or seven yards in breadth; and a long beam, equal with the highest part of the mound, is laid on the top. It is affirmed that such a dam cannot be injured by the weight of the water, or the force of the current, nor will the pressure of the mud and gravel cause it to separate, as their weight is suspended by the intertwining of the furze. If, therefore, the beam on the top of the wall be fixed, the whole fence will be firm, and effectually prevent any accident that might happen from the bursting of the bank.
Another purpose to which whins or furze have been applied, is that of a fence for hedges. With this view, a bank should be raised five or six feet broad at the top, with a proper ditch on each side, the surface of which ought to be thickly sown with furze-seeds. These will quickly grow, and in the course of two or three years form a barrier, through which few animals will be able to break: such a fence will continue in a state of perfection for several years. But, as the furze advances in size, the old prickles decay ; thus leave the lower parts of the stems naked, and afford a passage to animals. To remedy this inconvenience, the bank ought progressively to be stored with new plants, which should never be allowed to ascend to such a height as to become bare below ; so that if one side of the hedge be cut down close to the bank, the other half may remain as a fence till the former attains a proper size; when the opposite side may be cut down in a similar manner. Thus, the bank will continually have a strong hedge upon it, without ever becoming naked at the root. - Lastly, the fresh and dried flowers of this plant afford, in dyeing, a fine yellow colour.
There is a variety of this species; which has, within these few years, been cultivated in England, and is called French Furze. It thrives on a poor sandy soil, and is cut every third year, in the month of February: the instruments should be sharp, and applied as closely to the ground as possible. An acre of land, sown with this furze, will yield between four and five thou-sand faggots, which are chiefly consumed in the heating of ovens.