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A deciduous shrub usually from 1 to 11⁄2 ft (sometimes 21⁄2 ft) high, forming dense, cushion-like masses; branches interlacing, spiny and hairy, the spines much branched, 3⁄4 to 1 in. long, each subdivision needle-pointed. Leaves confined to the flowering twigs, linear-lanceolate, about 1⁄3 in. long, 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 in. wide, hairy beneath. Flowers as many as twelve in a rounded head or cluster 1 in. or so across, terminating short, erect, leafy, hairy shoots; each flower is 1⁄3 in. long, rich golden yellow. Pods flattish oval, carrying one to four seeds. Bot. Mag., t. 8528.
Native of S.W. Europe; introduced in 1759. It flowers in the latter half of May and in June, and produces at that time a more gorgeous display of golden yellow blossom than probably any other dwarf shrub. Healthy plants are completely covered with bloom, and when they have been planted to cover a breadth of 10 ft or so, produce a most brilliant colour effect. On shelves or small plateaux of the rock garden single plants are very charming. Although its leaves are deciduous, this shrub gives an evergreen effect through the deep green of its crowded twigs and spines. As with others of the spiny group of genistas, it is not advisable to give it rich or manured soil, otherwise it is apt to grow rank and soft, and during winter the younger parts are apt to die in patches and spoil the next crop of flowers. A soil of moderate quality, and especially a well-drained, sunny position, suits it best. It can be propagated by seeds and by August cuttings. One of the most indispensable shrubs in the south of England.
In Flora Europaea two subspecies are recognised, namely the typical one with the hairs on the stems and leaves spreading and the standard petals of the corollas 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long; and subsp. occidentalis Rouy, said to be confined to the W. Pyrenees and N. Spain, in which the hairs are appressed and the standard longer – 3⁄8 to 7⁄16 in. long. If this distinction were to be recognised, cultivated plants would belong to the latter. But the two variants are not clearly distinguishable in wild material and certainly do not merit the rank of subspecies. The description given above is made from a cultivated plant.
Belonging to the same section of the genus as G. hispanica, and no improvement on it, is G. tournefortii Spach, a small erect or semi-procumbent shrub, native to Spain and Portugal. For this, see Fl. Europaea, Vol. 2, p. 99.