– the annual Gorse Fire and the debate rage on!
Gorse, is considered a pest because it has a tremendous ability to invade areas of pasture and form dense thickets in very little time. Due to the fact that Gorse seed can remain dormant for up to 30 years in the soil before germinating, and because of its ability to thrive even in nutrient poor soil, it is seen as an evasive plant that needs drastic control. Gorse can grow in all soil types as it is a nitrogen fixer, which means it can improve the condition of the soil all by itself. ( I think that is so clever – no wonder it is always so cheerful, practically flowering away throughout the year!)
Gorse grows at a fast rate and can reach up to 3 meters high. Each plant has a life-span of about 29 years and can produce 34,000 seeds per square meter, per annum. The seeds normally germinate in Spring and are scattered by birds, animals and water. Gorse is known as a fire-climax plant which means not only is it well adapted to withstand fires, it also has seed pods that are to a large extent stimulated and opened by fire, thereby allowed rapid regeneration after fire. Furthermore, the burnt stubs regularly boast new shoots from the root making the act of “burning” in the first place, seem futile.
|Effect of controlled burning on Gorse. The grass and bracken can now flourish. |
(Photo credit – geograph.org.uk)
Gorse is such a valuable plant as habitat for wildlife and provides a thorny haven of protection for nesting birds and small mammals. Each year when I see the fires across West Cork like little smoke signals from peninsula to peninsula i worry about all the little animals trapped there. Surely the hibernating hedgehogs, or frogs looking for streams, or tiny shrews just dont stand a chance. There has got to be a better way that does not effect wildlife in this manner. Burning may be the least expensive method available in Euros but the cost to the environment is pretty unfair. We need some young scientists out there who will unlock the solution.