This species is almost unmistakable due to its fiercely armed stems and rachis, combined with the eye-catching pink flowers with red styles. It is also strongly glandular. It is endemic to Britain, where its centre of distribution extends from the Haslemere area of Surrey to the eastern edge of Hampshire and parts of West Sussex. It is mainly associated with old heathlands and commons on acid soils.
The panicle is long and cylindrical in shape due to the shortly branched, nearly patent flowering branches. The rachis is usually almost straight or slightly curved. The rachis and floral branches have numerous hairs, glands, acicles and prickles – the latter being particularly long and fine, and noticeably crowded on the pedicels below the flowers. Like those on the stems, the prickles are variable in length and usually nearly patent.
Flowers are about 2-2.5cm diameter with bright pink (sometimes faded) petals, c.10-12 x 6-8mm, broadly obovate in shape, slightly notched or toothed at the apex, often erect. The styles are reddish, at least below and the stamens are longer than the styles and have pale pink filaments and glabrous anthers. The young carpels and receptacle are hairy. The sepals are patent at flowering but become loosely reflexed as the fruit develops. They are medium to long pointed and bear numerous short-stalked glands and small acicles.
Leaves have 3-5 sharply and unevenly serrate leaflets, mid green or yellowish-green in colour. The terminal leaflet is c.6 x 4cm, more or less ovate in shape, with an emarginate or cordate base and a cuspidate to acuminate apex.
Leaflets are paler green below, pubescent but not felted.
Stems are green (in these photos) or become reddish-brown, with numerous hairs and sessile glands, some short-stalked glands and more frequent longer glands and gland-tipped acicles and pricklets. The main prickles on the angles are very long, slender, patent or only slightly declining, yellow or turning reddish brown at the base. They grade into the variable-length prickles on the sides.