Sam s Club

Roses stores in Virginia Beach

White Single RoseBy Ray Allen, Founder,
Photographs by: Roger Phillips

The famous group of plants with Rosa as their first name is one of the largest, most-loved and most confused families in the world.

The Myths

In addition to the wild medieval tales of love and magic, the rose has many myths around it that are alive today. For example, if you're really informed about what a "wild rose" is, you're one of a tiny minority. First of all, that wonderful old pink, fluffy rose that your grandmother called "wild, " wasn't. Most of the roses you see around old abandoned homesites aren't wild either. They're just tough. Since roses have been hybridized since Roman times, there are thousands of tough, long-lived hybrids that seem to grow on forever.

The True "Wild" Roses

pink single roseThe botanical term for wild rose is "species rose", which means just what it says — a species that occurs naturally, with no help from man — a true "wildflower." There are over 100 of these worldwide, some native to North America, many from the Orient and Europe. These true wild roses are all single with exactly five petals — never more, and almost all of them are pink, with a few whites and reds, and even fewer that range toward yellow. (By the way, there are now over 20, 000 hybrids, with about 200 new ones every year.)

North American Native Roses

Two of the most widespread species roses you may see are Rosa carolina, or the Carolina Rose, common in thickets, and Rosa palustris, commonly called "Swamp Rose", since it grows in wet ground. Both are rather small, scrambling shrubs with spectacular, 2" wide-open single blooms with five bright pink petals. And both are native to a huge area from the entire Atlantic seaboard all the way west to Nebraska.

Further west, Rosa blanda is the pink-fading-to-white-flowered climbing shrub usually called "Prairie Rose". It's native from Ontario down into Texas, and west to the Rockies.

Pink RoseFrom the Rockies through the Cascades, a very hardy favorite is Rosa woodsii, or "Wood's Wild Rose". Along the upper Pacific coast from Alaska down into California, a famous wild rose is Rosa nutkana, known as "The Nootka Rose." And of course, there is a Rosa californica, native west of the Sierra Nevada. All these westerners are pink. There are others, and every region has it's favorite.

Most all North American native roses look a lot like the large photo above, pink with exactly five petals. Most of the native rose plants are smallish shrubs, with canes no longer than three or four feet.

The Most Misused Common Names of All

If your Aunt Sarah, who knew her plants, told you that wild rose at the farm was a "Pasture Rose", that's fine, but don't expect anyone else to know what that means. Pasture Rose, Prairie Rose, Wild Rose, Dog Rose, Eglantine, Sweetbriar, and Scotch Briar are just a few of the very common names for wild roses that mean different things in different places. (Probably ten different species are called "Pasture Rose" in various parts of the country.)

Pink Single RoseImported Wild Roses

More commonly seen are two wild roses that are used extensively in landscaping in North America.

Rugosa Rose

R. rugosa

This is the tough, thorny shrub with the deeply-veined dark green leaves. If they're in flower (heavily in June), you'll see both red and white types, and in late summer, the famous rugosa apple-shaped hips are quite showy. These beautiful shrubs are so tough, they're grown everywhere from fancy rose gardens to grocery store parking lots. The rugosas are native to the Far East, and neither salt spray nor bitter cold hurts them a bit. In fact they will grow almost anywhere with sun, from northern Canada to our southern beaches.

Multiflora Rose

R. multiflora

This is the rangy, small-leaved shrub with sprays of one-inch white single roses in June. This rose is native to Japan and Korea, but has been used extensively in the U.S. as a "living fence." It wasn't such a great fence, since in our mid-Atlantic states it has become an invasive pest. It's also very prevalent along the Maine coast — beautiful in bloom, but a real problem to contain.

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