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A deciduous shrub of bushy habit when old, up to 12 ft high, and as much or more through; young branches grooved. Leaves simple, grey-green, with little or no stalk, about 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄8 in. wide, silky beneath, edges slightly decurved. Racemes 1 to 2 in. long, terminating short shoots of the year, very abundant. Flowers bright yellow, 1⁄2 in. long, standard petal roundish, about 1⁄2 in. across. Calyx clothed with silky hairs. Pods 1 in. long, very silky, carrying three to five seeds. Flowers in June and July, and intermittently until October. Bot. Mag., t. 2265.
Native of Madeira, and one of the few shrubs from that island that are really hardy with us; it also occurs in Teneriffe. It was brought home from Madeira by Francis Masson in 1777, on his return from the Cape of Good Hope, where he had for five years been collecting plants for Kew. It has naturalised itself in several parts of the Kew woods, and is never injured in the least by frost, but until quite recently it was scarcely known in gardens. It flowers in June and July when shrubs generally are going out of flower, and thrives quite well in semi-shaded positions in thin woodland. For these two reasons it is an exceptionally valuable broom, the more so as it grows well in rough grass which gets no more attention than an annual mowing. It resembles G. cinerea previously described (q.v.), and the two probably are geographical forms of one species.
In addition to the freely seeding form there is also in cultivation what appears to be a sterile clone of G. tenera, which is usually grown under the name “G. cinerea”. It is of more graceful habit than the fertile form, and the flowers more fragrant.
G. tenera is generally known in gardens by its synonymous name – G. virgata (Ait.) Link. It should not be confused with G. virgata Willd., which is a variety of G. tinctoria.