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

General photo of plant in its habitat, plus details of stem


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 but possibly declining in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 95 of the 617 tetrads.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


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

UK Map