A deciduous, more or less prostrate shrub 1 to 2 ft high; branches slender, interlaced, downy or glabrous, very spiny; spines numerous 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. long. Leaves simple, glabrous, ovate-lanceolate, pointed, about 1⁄4 in. long. Flowers yellow, 1⁄2 in. long, crowded on short racemes terminating leafy twigs; bracts conspicuous; flower-stalks each with two bracteoles. Pods about 1⁄2 in. long, glabrous, inflated, obliquely narrowed at both ends.
Widely distributed over western Europe and frequent on moors and heaths in Great Britain, though uncommon in Scotland. Although pretty when in flower, it is not one of the most attractive of genistas. The spines are really modified branches, and may often be seen bearing leaves.
G. germanica (q.v.) is allied to this species, but is distinguished by the following characters: leaves hairy; bracts subtending the flower-stalks small and inconspicuous; flower-stalks without bracteoles.
var. subinermis (Legrand) Rouy – This name is available for plants almost or wholly without spines. They are found throughout the range of the species.