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, though fairly robust, found especially along woodland margins on acid soils. The upper part of the panicle is a cylindrical head of flowers on short, stout branches, often with several longer ascending branches below.
The rachis is usually almost straight or slightly flexuose, moderately densely hairy with rare short-stalked glands. The leaves in the panicle are distinctly white-felted 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, which are sometimes very dark rose-tinted at the base. The anthers sometimes have a few hairs and the sutures may also 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 typically have 5 (occasionally 3) overlapping leaflets which are sometimes convex and rather sharply and coarsely serrate with undulating margins. They are usually roughly hairy above. The terminal leaflet is quite small, c.6 x 4-5cm, broadly elliptical to rather rhomboid, though sometimes appearing almost round, with a short to medium acuminate tip and an emarginate base. Leaflets are yellowish green in the open to dark green in shade.
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.