Gorse – you either love it or hate it!

Recent reserve tasks at Llanngloffan Fen have continued with the annual works of scrub control with the main emphasis this season to tackle the numerous large stands of gorse.As much as gorse is a valuable habitat for a number of bird and invertebrate species, it does have the potential to encroach onto otherwise valuable land.

Yellowhammer in Gorse by Harry Hogg

Yellowhammer in Gorse by Harry Hogg

At Llangloffan Fen this is namely unimproved / marshy grassland and fen. These habitats support a range of important plants and wild flowers which become out-shaded when the gorse spreads.The large gorse bushes here provide little wildlife refuge due to their height and ‘stragglyness’.

On the reserve it is a matter of creating the right balance of habitats so once cut, some areas of gorse will be cut back yearly whilst others will be left to grow. New growth should be more compact in nature creating ideal conditions for a range of nesting birds, including stonechat, linnet and yellowhammer.

The dense structure also provides important refuge for these birds in harsh weather. With regard to its importance for invertebrates; it is in flower for long periods, so is an important nectar source in early spring and early winter, when little else is in flower. At Llangloffan Fen a number of scarce and red data book invertebrates are dependent on it.

Controlled Gorse Burn

Controlled Gorse Burn

The cut gorse is then burnt, which for all my pyrotechnic volunteers is a great source of entertainment. The flames can get rather large due to the extreme flammability of this vegetation. None-the-less, all fires are controlled in a safe way with the Fire Control Department phoned at the start of a burn and once again at the end to confirm it is over.