This species is identified mainly by its bright, rose-pink flowers with broad petals, distinctive leaves and numerous broad-based prickles on the stem and rachis. It occurs widely across southern England and is also recorded from the Channel Islands and Belgium.
It is generally a low to medium height species found especially along woodland margins on acid soils. The upper part of the panicle is a cylindrical head of flowers on short, stout branches, with some longer branches below. The rachis is slightly flexuose, pubescent with rare short-stalked glands. The leaves in the panicle are usually whitish below.
Flowers are 2-2.5cm in diameter. The petals are broadly elliptical to slightly obovate, (9)12-14 x (6)8-10mm, slightly concave, partly crumpled and sometimes notched; they are usually a deep, rose-pink colour but can fade to almost white. The stamens usually have pink filaments, but these can also be white. The anthers sometimes have a few hairs and the sutures may be pink. Styles are yellow and pink-based or sometimes completely pink. The stamens slightly exceed the length of the styles. Sepals are broadly triangular, short to medium-pointed, felted and indistinctly white-bordered. They are patent at flowering, becoming reflexed.
Leaves have (3)-5 leaflets which are sometimes convex and rather sharply and coarsely serrate with undulating margins. They are sparsely and roughly hairy above (sometimes becoming glabrous). The terminal leaflet is quite small, c.6 x 4-5cm, broadly elliptical, almost round or characteristically somewhat rhomboid, with a short apex and a rounded to shallowly notched base. Leaflets are usually dark green in colour.
The undersides of the leaflets are greyish to whitish below (appressed stellate hairs) with soft hairs on the veins.
The first-year stem is usually green but can turn brownish or dull purple when growing in the open. It is moderately sharply angled, with flat or slightly furrowed sides and is often pruinose (clearly visible in the bottom photo). The prickles are fairly numerous on the angles, variable in length, but often stout and long, with a fine point and broad base. They may be almost patent to slightly declining (rarely curved). The stem and prickles are hairy; the stem has occasional to rare short-stalked glands in this species.