This is a common and widespread species of lowland Britain, found along the edges of woods, in hedgebanks and on heathlands. It does not have any particularly unique characters but can be recognised by the complete absence of glands, the large panicles of pure white flowers with broad petals and long stamens, and by the shining, almost glabrous stems. Click on photos for larger images.
Panicle growing in open situation:
Flowers are about 2.5-3cm in diameter. The stamens are relatively long. Styles are pale yellow/green.
The terminal leaflet is quite variable in shape. It can be widest below or above the middle, but is typically quite broad. Those in the panicle usually have a cuneate (narrowed) base. Leaves in full sun are often plicate (ridged), with the margins becoming undulate, causing the deeply serrate toothing to become more noticeable (lower two photos below). The leaf apex is relatively short and broad.
Note the red stem with yellow prickles (see also below).
Younger leaves or leaves in heavy shade may only have 3-4 leaflets.
Leaf undersides are often greenish-grey felted.
Stems are bright green in the shade, becoming red in the sun, but often the long, stout prickles remain bright yellow. Older stems are usually almost glabrous and glistening; younger ones may be sparsely hairy. Older stems are also often sharply angled, but shade-grown ones may be almost round.