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A dwarf, deciduous, very spiny and much branched shrub of whitish aspect growing to about 1 ft high in the wild state. The old wood is completely covered with the closely set, sheathing bases of stiff, sharp spines 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, which are really the persistent rhachises of the leaves become hard with age. These spines remain on the plant for many years and serve to protect the young leaves from browsing animals. Leaves pinnate, composed of six to twelve pairs of leaflets set on a spine-tipped rhachis; leaflets 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long, oblong to elliptic, bluntly pointed, covered on both sides with silky hairs. The leaves are furnished with hairy stipules which are united to the petioles for about a third of their length. Flowers white, borne three to eight together in a raceme which is as long as or shorter than the leaves. Calyx tubular, about 1⁄4 in. long, appressed-hairy, the teeth rather short, being at the most one-third the length of the tube; corollas peaflower-shaped, the standard ovate, about 3⁄5 in. long. Pods about 2⁄5 in. long, appressed-hairy, protruding from the persistent calyx.
A native of the north-west Mediterranean, found mostly in sandy or rocky places by the sea; probably introduced in 1640. It is suitable for a sunny ledge in the rock garden, in very well-drained soil.
This species is part of A. tragacantha L., but this name is best rejected as ambiguous, since Linnaeus included under it one, perhaps two, other distinct species. The identity of the plant that was described under this name in previous editions is uncertain, but the text figure agrees well with A. massiliensis and has therefore been retained.