Ononis Representative Species

TSO logo


Kindly sponsored by a member of the International Dendrology Society.

International Dendrology Society logo


Julian Sutton (2023)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. (2023), 'Ononis Representative Species' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/ononis/ononis-representative-species/). Accessed 2024-05-29.

The following 12 species probably have – or might once have had – a toehold on cultivation. All have trifoliate leaves unless otherwise stated. Hardiness in the garden is little known for most. RHS H4 or USDA zone 8–9 is a sensible guess for many. Information taken from Tutin et al. 1968; Devesa 2000; Bean 1976; Cullen et al. 2011; Beckett & Grey-Wilson 1994.

Ononis aragonensis Asso

Sub-shrub to shrub, often dwarf with contorted stems but sometimes erect, to 160 cm. Leaves densely hairy on the upper surface. Flowers yellow, in a long, loose terminal panicle. Might not ripen seed in cooler areas, in which case propagate from cuttings. Pyrenees to S Spain and NW Africa.

Ononis arvensis L.

RHS Hardiness Rating: H6

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-8

Erect, woody-based perennial to 1 m, variably hairy. Flowers pink, in dense terminal racemes. From W Europe to the Himalaya and N China.

Ononis crispa L.

Erect subshrub to 60 cm. Lower leaves often with 5 leaflets. Flowers pink, solitary in the upper nodes but dense enough to give the impression of a raceme. SE Spain, Balearic Is.

Ononis fruticosa L.

Erect shrub to 1 m. Flowers bright pink, in lax panicles, showy. SE France, C & E Spain, NW Africa.

Ononis minutissima L.

Low subshrub, often mat-forming with stems rooting along their lengths. Flowers yellow, in dense terminal racemes. W & C Mediterranean Europe.

Ononis natrix L.

Erect subshrub, 20–60(–100) cm. Leaves mostly trifoliate, sometimes with 5–7 leaflets near the base of the plant. Flowers in loose, leafy panicles, yellow, the banner sometimes red-veined. Showy but sometimes short-lived. S & W Europe, Western Sahara and Canary Is.

Ononis pinnata Brot.

Strongly erect plant to 1 m, variously described as herbaceous perennial, subshrub and shrub (such is the nature of this genus!). Leaves mostly with 5–7 leaflets. Flowers pink, in dense terminal racemes. Southern Spain and Portugal, Morocco.

Ononis repens L.

RHS Hardiness Rating: H6

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-8

Woody-based perennial to 60 cm; stems procumbent or ascending, often rooting at intervals, effectively rhizomatous. Leaflets 1 or 3. Flowers pink or purple, in lax, leafy racemes. Widespread in W and C Europe. A dubious taxon often treated as O. spinosa subsp. procurrens (Wallr.) Briq. or subsp. australis (Širj.) Greuter & Burdet.

Ononis rotundifolia L.

Erect subshrub to 50 cm, stems densely hairy and often zig-zagging. Leaflets orbicular. Flowers bright pink (sometimes pale or white), in small axillary clusters which together give the impression of a lax raceme, over a long summer season. Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland.

Ononis sessilifolia Bornm.

Low, tufted or spreading shrublet with glandular hairy stems. Leaves very small, leaflets 2–5 mm long. Flowers solitary on 1–2 cm pedicels, yellow, veined red on banner. One of the few truly alpine species. Turkey, on mountain slopes at 2,400–2,800 m.

Ononis speciosa Lag.

Shrub to 1 m. Flowers in dense, oblong panicles, golden-yellow. Beautiful, but needing overhead protection in Britain and similarly cool, maritime areas. S Spain, Morocco.

Ononis spinosa L.

Woody-based perennial to shrub, to 80 cm, very variable. Stems erect, ascending or spreading, rooting at the nodes in some forms (see O. repens). Some forms spiny, the terminal parts of some shoots tough and pointed, with much reduced leaves. Leaves with 1–3 leaflets. Flowers pink or purple, solitary in the leaf axils, sometimes sufficiently clustered that they form a leafy terminal raceme, sometimes giving the impression of a mere scattering. Much of Europe, NW Africa and Asia East to NW China.