The Yellow Flowers of Spring: Gorse

Gorse, Whin or Furze (Irish = Aiteann) is a very common bush characterised by sharp green spines and yellow flowers with a very strong fragrance that normally bloom in April and May.
It is most often found on low quality grounds and thrives along the rough ground on the River Corrib side of Terryland Forest Park. My friend Maírtin O'Ceidigh reminded me of the old saying, "Lovers will stop kissing when the gorse goes out of bloom. Because it grows on poor soils and can survive droughts that means never!
It was in former times extensively used as food, bedding and shelter for livestock during the autumn and winter. Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads as well as to produce an alcoholic beverage.
In Ireland the bush served as the traditional fuel for the bonfires of Oíche Bealtaine or May Eve (April 30). In the Celtic calendar, May 1st was the first day of summer and was celebrated as the festival of Lá Bealtaine (Beltane) and marks the midway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. In the Irish language, the word Bealtaine translates as the month of May.
Gorse was also placed around milk, butter and beds to ward off fairies.

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