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Ononis spinosa - Spiny Rest Harrow

Synonyms:O. campestris. O. procurrens.
Range:Most of Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa and temperate Asia.
Ononis spinosa (Spiny Rest Harrow) is a Perennial which grows to a height of 0.6m . It has a hardness rating of 6.
Spiny Rest Harrow will flower in November to February. The flowers from this plant are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and they are pollinated by Bees

Soil Information

Spiny Rest Harrow will grow in light (sandy),medium (loamy),hard (clay) soil. It is / is important for the soil to be well drained.
The soil prefers the following PH / acid levels :
- pH of less than 6, Acidic soils
- pH between 6 and 8, Neutral soils
- pH greater than 8, Basic soils
Spiny Rest Harrow prefers either dry or moist soils

Ideal Planting Locations

Spiny Rest Harrow should not be planted in shady areas.

Chalk and limestone grassland, stony hillsides and open pine forests[187], mainly on dry stony ground[7].

Planting places suited to this plant described below.

Cultivation Details

Prefers a sunny position in a well-drained neutral to alkaline soil[200]. Succeeds in poor soils, the plant often becoming spiny in such a situation[17]. Similar to O. repens but this species is not rhizomatous[200]. Mature roots are very tough and the plant gained its common name of 'Rest Harrow' because ploughs and harrows would be unable to break through it (in the days before heavy machinery was used on the land!). The whole plant is pleasantly scented when bruised[245]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].

Edible Uses*

* See disclaimer
Edible Rating: 2/5
Young shoots - cooked[2, 105]. Used as a potherb[183]. Roots - chewed for their liquorice-like flavour[183]. Flowers - raw. They are used as a decoration on salads[7].

Medicinal Uses*

* See disclaimer
Medicinal Rating: 2/5
The roots, leaves and flowers are antitussive, aperient, diuretic and lithontripic[7, 9, 13, 21, 46]. The root contains a fixed oil that is anti-diuretic and an essential oil that is diuretic. If the diuretic action is required then the root should be infused and not decocted or the essential oil will be evaporated[254]. An infusion is used in the treatment of dropsy, inflammation of the bladder and kidneys, rheumatism and chronic skin disorders[9]. The roots are used occasionally, they are harvested in the autumn, cut into slices and carefully dried for later use[9]. The young shoots are more commonly used, either fresh or dried[9]. They can be harvested throughout the summer[9]. A cough mixture is made from the bark[13].


Scarify or pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and sow the seed in the middle of spring in situ[200]. The seed can also be sown in a cold frame in the autumn. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring[200]. Division just before new growth begins in spring[200]. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings, September in a cold frame[111].

Scented parts of the plants

Plant : Crushed

Known Hazards

None known

Other Uses

None known


no recorded cultivars


Flora of the British Isles.
Clapham, Tootin and Warburg.
Author: Clapham, Tootin and Warburg.
Publisher : A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
Date of Publication : 1962

The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Huxley. A.
Author: Huxley. A.
Publisher : Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
Date of Publication : 1992

DISCLAIMER: All information published on is for entertainment purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained here with other sources. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by doctors or dietary advice by dieticians. will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising therefrom.