A dwarf deciduous shrub, forming a neat dense tuft 4 to 6 in. high, ultimately 1 ft or more through; branches thin, angular, very hairy and spiny. Spines stiff and sharp, being really the terminations of curious pinnately divided branchlets. Leaves simple, mostly confined to the base of the shoot; thin, linear, pointed, about 1⁄3 in. long, hairy. Racemes terminal, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, erect, densely set with golden yellow flowers. Flowers 1⁄3 in. long; standard petal broadly ovate; calyx with five slender awl-shaped lobes, hairy. Pod round and flat, 1⁄2 in. long, ripening usually but one seed. Blossoms in June and July. The plant in general suggests a miniature G. hispanica, Bot. Mag., t. 8075.
Native of Dalmatia, Herzegovina, etc., where it forms part of the underwood of pine forests, and generally affects dry situations. Introduced to Kew in 1893, it has proved a delightful plant. It may be used for furnishing shelves in the rock garden, and it provides a pleasing undergrowth for groups of thinly planted taller shrubs, provided the shade is not too dense. At flowering time the tufts are entirely hidden by the closely packed, golden yellow racemes. The flowering shoots die back considerably during winter, springing up from the base in spring. Propagation is best effected by means of cuttings placed under a bell-glass in an unheated frame in August.
G. sylvestris is somewhat variable in habit and spininess. The plant described above could be called var. pungens (Vis.) Rehd., to distinguish it from what is considered to be the more typical race, which is less spiny and of laxer habit.