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Common Name: Spiny Rest Harrow
Ononis spinosa is a Perennial up to 0.60 metres tall.
It has edible and medicinal uses.
Most of Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa and temperate Asia.
Chalk and limestone grassland, stony hillsides and open pine forests[
], mainly on dry stony ground[
Prefers a sunny position in a well-drained neutral to alkaline soil[
]. Succeeds in poor soils, the plant often becoming spiny in such a situation[
Similar to O. repens but this species is not rhizomatous[
]. 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[
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[
Young shoots - cooked[
]. Used as a potherb[
Roots - chewed for their liquorice-like flavour[
Flowers - raw. They are used as a decoration on salads[
The roots, leaves and flowers are antitussive, aperient, diuretic and lithontripic[
]. 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[
]. An infusion is used in the treatment of dropsy, inflammation of the bladder and kidneys, rheumatism and chronic skin disorders[
]. The roots are used occasionally, they are harvested in the autumn, cut into slices and carefully dried for later use[
]. The young shoots are more commonly used, either fresh or dried[
]. They can be harvested throughout the summer[
A cough mixture is made from the bark[
Scarify or pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and sow the seed in the middle of spring in situ[
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[
Division just before new growth begins in spring[
]. 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[