Spiny Restharrow - Ononis spinosa


Short to tall subshrub with stiffly-spiny erect stems, not rooting below and with two lines of hairs. Leaves mostly trifoliate, linear to oval not notched. Flowers pink or reddish purple pea like, 15 to 20 mm in lax racemes. Fruit pod hairy, oval with central line, splitting.

Similar Species

Ononis repens

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

The stems are mainly hairy in one row, or two opposite rows. Leaflets  >3 times as long as wide, usually acute or subacute.  It can be spineless.

Recording advice

A photo of plant in its habitat, plus close-up photo showing details of hairs on stem (RPR)


Rough grassy habitats, commons, banks and roadside verges, sometimes near the coast.

When to see it

April to September

Life History


UK Status

Fairly frequent in much of England, but scarcer in Scotland and Wales.

VC55 Status

Once fairly frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland, but now local and declining due to habitat loss and degradation.

In the Flora of Leicestershire (Primavesi and Evans 1988) it was found in 95 of the 617 tetrads, and in the Flora of Rutland (Messenger 1971) in 6 tetrads.

It is listed on the current VC55 Rare Plant Register (Hall and Woodward 2022) because of its threat-level

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map

Species profile

Common names
Spiny Restharrow
Species group:
Records on NatureSpot:
First record:
30/05/2007 (Ellison, Lorraine)
Last record:
02/10/2023 (Smith, Peter)

Total records by month

% of records within its species group

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