The bright yellow flowers of this extremely thorny evergreen are at their best in spring, though it has a reputation for being virtually always in flower, hence the old country joke “When gorse is out of blossom, kissing’s out of fashion”. This impression is due to different species flowering at different times. Around Otley you could see some at Christmas. As well as being protective, the thorns actually do most of the plant’s photosynthesising, rather than the tiny leaves. The flowers have a great coconut-like fragrance, though apparently different people have different sensitivities to the strength of this. Later, the sound of the seed-pods cracking open in the summer sunshine will sound very much like a bird-call. Gorse is highly-flammable, and was used as fuel before the Industrial Revolution. Crushed Gorse was used to feed cattle and horses in winter. Other names include Furze, French Fuzz, Fingers & Thumbs and Whin (hence Whinchat, Whinmoor etc). If you have time, read the BBC gorse story below (stranger than fiction).