Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Some Ohio Roses


In our area you are likely to come across four common species of roses or Rosa. This is the small Carolina or Wild Rose, Rosa carolina. Unless it's in bloom, it usually goes unnoticed.

Carolina Rose fruits with a single, sometimes double, rose "hip" at the top of the plant. Carolina Rose is found on dry upland soils. It stands 1-3 foot tall.


One of the key features for recognizing this species are the thorns. The twig is covered in both large and small thorns, giving a "bristly greenbrier" look. The thorns are often white, alternate in arrangement, but sometimes paired near the top of the plant.

If you are in a wetland environment, look for another 5-7 leaved species known as Swamp Rose, Rosa palustris.

Unlike the previous species, Swamp Rose is a large, heavily thorned plant. Like all our native species, look for pink flowers.

Another way to determine it's a native species is to look at the stipules. This is the flattened area along the leaf stem. Our native roses end in a V shape or two-pronged stipule. Like two fingers up saying "peace baby, don't cut me, I'm not multi-flora rose".

A third species is the Prairie Rose, Rosa setigera. It's sometimes called Climbing Rose because of it's habit of spreading by crawling all over fencerows or other plants.

Other than the growing habits, the distinguishing character for me is that it's most often found as a THREE leaved only species.

Then of course there is the scourge of all roses the Multi-flora Rose, Rosa multiflora. Brought over intentionally and advertised as a "living fence" for landscaping, this species has became one of our most invasive of plants. Multi-flora Rose differs from our natives by producing smaller yet much more numerous fruiting heads. Let's not forget it also blooms WHITE not red or pink.

The thorns are similar to our natives, but tend to be more curved or arched like fish hooks or shark fins. Red buds are typical of all the roses.

Though not reliable on its own, Swamp and Prairie Rose tend to have straighter thorns.

The best identification method when in leaf are the stipules. They are much more numerous than our natives, and give the appearance of centipede legs. Multi-flora Rose is not eliminated by just cutting. Burning repeatedly or herbicide is necessary.

2 comments:

  1. these aren't roses

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  2. Thanks for the pointers. I found this very helpful (especially like the differences between native "V" stipules and the centipede-like stipules of multiflora rose). Now I need to find out what the native pink rose is at work! I will check those thorns tomorrow.

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