Multiflora Rose

In May and June, a certain bush blooms here in Ohio.  It takes off when the common Honeysuckle Bush, which blooms earlier in the spring, starts to fade.

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Notice the yellowing Honeysuckle Bush blooms off to the side

The pleasant white blooms stand out, as do the many fine leaves.  As a matter of fact, it looks sort of familiar…

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They do look like white roses, don’t they?  They are.  This is the Multiflora Rose Bush, part of the Rose family of plants.

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Their flowers, 5-petaled and white, are rather distinctive.  Classic rose plants have pink blooms.

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But what really distinguishes this bush is the leaves.  On each stem is from 5 to 11 (typically 9) leaves in a pattern known as pinnately compound which, when you look for it, is quite noticeable.  These are classic rose leaves.

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Looks nice, doesn’t it?  Rose bushes, neat!  Now for the bad news- this is an invasive species.

Multiflora Rose was brought to North America from east Asia in the 19th century.  It was used as a ‘living fence’ to divide off land such as cow pastures.  Unfortunately, this invasive species displaces native bushes that have grown here for much longer time periods.  This leads to less natural diversity.

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Here’s the berries of the plant, commonly called rose hips

Each cane on a large plant may contain 40 to 50 pannicles. Each pannicle can contain as many as 100 hypanthia or hips (average of about 50) and each hip, an average of seven seeds (range of one to 22). Thus each large cane can potentially produce up to 17,500 seeds. Seeds remain viable for a number of years. We have found as many as 90% of the seed to be viable, in the absence of drought, stress, and seed chalcids.

Rose hips are often lauded for their nutritional content and medicinal properties– just be very careful what you eat, even if red berries are usually OK to consume, some are poisonous.  Know what you are doing!

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All of those hardy seeds that Multiflora Rose puts out means that this is a difficult invasive species to control.  Songbirds love to eat the rose hips, but the seeds typically pass through them and are even fertilized by the bird droppings!

I guess if you are going to have an invasive species, it might as well look nice.

Note: Multiflora Rose can host Rose Rosette Disease, which can be spread to other roses by mites.  Be careful if you grow roses!