Wild Roses

For those of us that enjoy using roses for natural remedies and recipes, the wild varieties are what we turn to first. Wild (or species) roses are more hardy than their highly bred cousins, and with their abundance of big red hips, they are a foragers delight! And with their wafer thin petals, they make excellent rose petal tea, much better than any of the common garden roses.

Wild Rose: Rosa Californica
Wild Rose: Rosa Californica

Just because these are “wild”, doesn’t mean you can’t plant a few in your garden, if you have the room. The Rugosa makes a wonderful garden plant, and has the benefit of cross breeding easily, and growing well from seeds and cuttings.

About The Wild or Species Roses

These native flowers can be found under many different names, including: Pasture Rose, Prairie Rose, Eglantine, Sweetbriar, and Scotch Briar.

The technical and scientific name for wild roses is the species rose. This means that its a naturally occurring breed, no hybidizing or cross breeding. So even though there are in excess of twenty thousand breed types, only slightly over 100 are wild. Authentic wild roses are single blooms, with only five petals. More petals means its a hybrid. They are mostly pink, although you will find some occasional white, yellow, and reds. They can be native to North America, Europe, and Asia.

Even those old roses you see on old farms are most likely not wild. They are just very hardy hybrids. You pretty much need to get out to some undeveloped countryside meadows to see native species.

One reason why wild roses are not as popular in gardens is because they tend to have limited bloom times. In most cases its only for about two weeks, in the early summer. While it can look spectacular when you are there, it makes your garden or meadow a little bare the rest of the year! Most meadow landscapers now cross breed with rugosa roses to get repeating blooms and hardy roses. One great version is the aptly named Nearly wild rose.

Here are some common natural species by area:

North America

  • Rosa Carolina – This is commonly called the Carolina Rose. Its frequently found in thickets and are small shrubs. More common on the East Coast, hence the name.
  • Rosa Palustris – This is often referred to as the Swamp rose, as it is often found in or near wetlands. It too is a shrub as well with the Carolina.
  • Rosa Arkansana – Very common in central North America. Also called the prairie rose
  • Rosa Virginiana – Also known as the Virginia rose. Its found on the East Coast mainly. It has great fruits but big thorns!
  • Rosa Blanda – This is often named as the Meadow Rose. Its a smaller shrub climber that goes from a light pink to a white as it blooms. Its more common in the central areas of the continent.
  • Rose Woodsii – A mountain rose, often called Wood’s Wild Rose. Its found near the Rocky Mountains.
  • Rosa Nutkana – Also known as the Nootka rose, its seen in Alaska to California, down the Pacific Coast.
  • Rosa Californica – This, as the name would suggest, is common east of the Sierra Nevada mountains

Some roses are also found in North America, but are actually imports:

Rosa rugosa Also called the rugosa rose. These are extremely hardy shrub roses, but they are native to the Orient. They can handle cold and salt easily.

This rose originates from the east…Japan, Korea and China. It is exceptionally hardy, and will tolerate almost any conditions. It is also salt resistant, so makes a good choice for coastal properties.

The flowers have a sweet fragrance, and can be used to make pot-pourri. Very easy to hybridise and propogate.

Rosa Multiflora or also called the Multiflora rose, This is a small shrub with white blooms. It again is from the Orient, namely Japan and Korea. It was imported to the US as a border rose. However, it was soon found to be extremely invasive. It is commonly found along the East coast.

Rosa Canina (dog rose)

I believe that the name dog rose comes from an old belief that the rose hips offered some protection against the bite of mad dogs. I can’t find anything to support this, but it seems reasonable considering the high levels of vitamin C and anti-oxidents in the hips.

The flowers are very similar to the rugosa variety, and it is sometimes used as a rootstock for grafting.


Other breeds are often called nearly wild. These include the Carefree Beauty, Carefree Delight, and other monikers to show that these are easy care roses