Members of this class are wild roses - but
wild roses of a special kind. Species roses
originate with plants or cuttings that are
collected from the wild, but typically they come from exceptionally vigorous and
The special strength of the species roses is their wildness. These are roses
that have had to take care of themselves. If you choose species roses adapted to
your climate and soil, they will take care of themselves
in your garden, too.
Appreciating species roses requires a shift in perspective: you must set
aside the preconception that says that beautiful roses must look like the ones
you see at the florist. Species roses commonly bear simple, so-called single
flowers, with just five petals, and these blossoms most often measure no more
than 1 or 2 in (2.5 to 5.1 cm) in diameter. Most often, they bloom just once a
season. Species roses tend to make expansive shrubs, which means they are best
reserved for informal plantings. Within such a setting, though, they offer not
only unrivaled hardiness but also a subtle, understated beauty matched by few
- 'Cherokee Rose' (Introduced - 1759)
- Though of foreign origin, this rose is as much at home
throughout the southeastern United States as were the people whose
name it inherited. The Cherokee rose is almost evergreen in the
warmer part of its range, and the glossy, dark green leaves are
unusual in that each one has three leaflets, rather than the five or
seven common among most roses. It flowers early, in April or May,
bearing fragrant, single, white flowers 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 in (6.5-9.0cm)
across, with showy yellow stamens. These blossoms are succeeded
by large, decorative red hips.
- 'Memorial Rose' (Introduced - 1891)
- The hardiness, vigorous growth, and sweet fragrance of Rosa
wichuraiana made it a favorite cemetery planting, where it
survived with only intermittent care. As a ground cover for gravesites,
it won the name memorial rose; it has also been used as a climbing
rose and is a parent of many fine hybrid climbers.
The pyramid-shaped clusters of white flowers open as late as
August; each 1 1/2 - 2 in (3.8-5.1cm) blossom has prominent yellow
stamens and exudes a fruity fragrance. These are followed by small,
ovoid, dark red hips. The glossy, dark green foliage can be almost
evergreen in mild winters. The canes are moderately thorny, and
when allowed to sprawl, they root where the tips touch the ground,
giving rise to new plants; this makes R. wichuraiana the most effective
ground cover rose.
- 'Prairie Rose' (Introduced - 1810)
- Ranging naturally from Ontario to Florida and Texas, this tough
pioneer makes an excellent stabilizer for a sunny bank, and its
tolerance for poor, dry soils makes it an outstanding highway
planting. Its long canes can be trained up a trellis or pillar, but they look
best when allowed to grow into a large shrub in a meadow or as a
specimen at the edge of a substantial lawn. The single pink flowers
appear later than those of other species roses, and the hips and
vivid autumn foliage that follow make this an outstanding shrub for
- 'Red-leafed Rose' (Introduced - prior to 1830)
- Blooming in late spring, Rosa glauca produces single, 1 1/2 in ( 4cm ),
clear pink flowers with white eyes. Though not long-lasting,
they produce attractive oval red hips that show up well against the
colorful foliage, which is copper to purplish in sunny sites, silvery
green in shade. The foliage color, enhanced by the purple hue of
the young canes, makes this rose an unusual and eye-catching
addition to a mixed border. Tough and hardy, this nearly thornless
shrub performs particularly well in cold-climate gardens.
- 'Rosa Banksiae Banksiae' Roses (Introduced - 1807)
- The double white flowers of R. banksiae banksiae appear
in profusion in spring and continue for up to 6 weeks.
The flowers cover the plant during this period. Each
blossom is less than 1 inch across, pure white, and extremely
fragrant with the scent of violets. Leaves are long, light green,
and shiny, and the canes are nearly thornless.
Where it is hardy, this rose is a fast, vigorous grower and is quite long-lived.
This rose grows well on a tree, wall, or trellis but
may become rampant where the growth is not controlled.
The related variety R. banksiae lutea bears pale to deep yellow double flowers
and is slightly hardier and less fragrant. Both varieties are known as
the Lady Banks' Rose.
- 'Rosa Eglanteria' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1551)
- R. eglanteria is commonly called the sweetbrier or
eglantine rose. Its single blush pink flowers are 2 inches across,
with petals surrounding golden stamens. They appear
singly or in small clusters in late spring. Bright red hips
follow the flowers. The leaves are tough and dark green and are
distinctly apple scented, while flowers are sweetly fragrant.
Canes bear abundant prickles.
This is a large, vigorous rose with a rambling habit. This rose has
become naturalized in North America and can be found
growing in pastures. In the garden, plants should be
heavily pruned to contain them and to encourage new growth,
which is especially fragrant.
- 'Rosa Foetida' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1542)
- Single, bright
yellow flowers are 2 to 2 1/2 inches across and bloom once a year
on 10-foot plants. The blooms have an almost sickening sweet
odor. This rose was the basis of yellow coloring in modern roses,
and unfortunately is very prone to black spot.
- 'Rosa Foetida Bicolor' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1590)
- This wild rose also goes by the name' Austrian Copper'. It is a
sport of the yellow species R. foetida. Its 2- to 3-inch flowers
are orange to coppery red on the upper surface with a
yellow reverse. Occasionally a branch spontaneously reverts
to the species, resulting in both yellow and
copper-colored flowers on the same bush. Foliage is small, neat,
and light green; the prickly canes are chestnut brown.
Plants typically grow 4 to 5 feet with arching canes but
can sometimes reach 8 feet. They usually require little
pruning to maintain their attractive form. The plants are
effective in beds or borders for a colorful spring flower
display but should be kept apart from soft, pastel flowers,
which do not blend well with the bold tones of this variety.
This rose is hardy but susceptible to black spot.
- 'Rosa Foetida Persiana' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1837)
- This rose is similar in all respects to R. foetida except that its flowers
are double. This rose is often called the Persian rose.
- 'Rosa Hugonis' Roses (Introduced - 1899)
- Also called 'Father
Hugo's Rose', this rose is one of the first to bloom in late spring.
Its masses of single, 2 1/2-inch flowers are sunny yellow; blooming
on drooping branches over small, dark green leaves. Because of
its 6- to 10-foot height, this rose is best grown as a climber.
- 'Rosa Macrantha' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1832)
- Single, 2- to 3-inch, blush pink flowers bloom once a year and are followed
by 3/4-inch, round, dull red hips. Plants grow to 10 feet in height
and have upright arching canes as well as canes that grow along
the ground; both are thickly covered with blue-green leaves.
- 'Rosa Moyesii' Roses (Introduced - 1894)
- Single flowers vary in
color from light pink to deep rose and deep blood red. They are
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches across and are borne singly or in pairs. Flowers
bloom once a year, followed by oblong hips that are 2 to 2 1/2
inches long and deep orange-red. The 10-foot-high, arching
plants have fine, fernlike foliage. Although this rose was
discovered in 1894, it is believed to be of ancient origin.
- 'Rosa Multiflora' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1810)
- Although usually grown as an understock, this rose is sometimes cultivated
for its dense, hedge like growth. Indeed, its growth is so rampant
that the planting of this rose is outlawed in some areas. The
3/4-inch white flowers bloom once a year in pyramidal clusters.
- 'Rosa Pendulina' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1683)
- Also known as the 'Alpine Rose', this rose has single, 2-inch, pink
flowers that bloom singly or in small clusters once a year. The red
hips are oblong or oval and have an elongated neck. Plants grow
3 feet tall.
- 'Rosa Roxburghii' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1814)
- Known also as the 'Chestnut Rose', this rose has gray branches with
shredding bark, and prickly flower buds that look like a chestnut
burr. The double, flat flowers are medium lilac pink and 2 to 2 1/2
inches across. Hips are rounded and 1 to 1 1/2 inches across. Plants
grow to 6 feet tall, and bloom recurrently throughout the summer.
- 'Rosa Rugosa Alba' Roses (Introduced - 1870)
- A color sport of R. rugosa, R. rugosa alba produces large
single white flowers throughout the summer. Usually
borne in clusters, each bloom is 2 1/2 to 4 inches across and
bears a strong clove-like fragrance. The flowers are
followed by huge orange-red hips that stand out beautifully
against the foliage, which turns from bright green to
yellow in the fall. Another rugosa sport, R. rugosa rubra,
bears magenta-purple flowers and red hips.
This vigorous and spreading rose may outgrow its space unless controlled. This
rose is useful in shrub borders, as a hedge, or as a specimen shrub. An
easy-to-grow rose, this rose thrives in
sandy soil, is an excellent choice for seaside gardens,
and is extremely hardy and resistant to diseases and insects.
- 'Scotch Rose' (Introduced - prior to 1600)
- As the common name suggests, this rose is a native of Scotland,
where it is often found growing wild on sandy banks. In
mid to late spring, it bears 2 1/2 in (6.5cm) cream or white, single
blossoms, and in general it is an extremely tough plant that suckers
freely when grown on its own roots. This dense, thicket like growth
and the bristling armament of sharp, needlelike bristles make the
Scotch rose outstanding material for a low-care barrier hedge or a
tall, informal ground cover. Many hybrid roses have been bred from
Rosa spinosissima; the best of these maintain its toughness but
combine it with more mannerly growth. The Scotch rose's hips are
distinctive, small, and maroon-black.
- 'Shining Rose' (Introduced - 1807)
- Rosa nitida has earned its place in cold-climate gardens with its
three seasons of display. In early summer, it bears fragrant,
brilliant pink flowers. Then in fall, the glossy, narrow leaflets
(which give this rose its name) turn a beautiful scarlet. Later, the
bright red hips and reddish brown prickles provide winter interest.
Like most of the species roses, R. nitida is not a spectacular
shrub, but instead one of quiet charms. It suckers readily, gradually
forming a thicket of slender, reddish stems. Because of this
spreading habit, R. nitida makes an excellent and self-sufficient ground
cover for the outskirts of a garden -one that flourishes even in
partial shade and poor soils.
- 'Sierra Nevada Rose' (Introduced - 1891)
- Rosa woodsii ranges over a wide area of central and western North
America and has evolved a number of local variations. The
form named fendleri, the one most often seen in gardens, is slightly
taller than its relatives and has a more slender shape. The leaves are
grayish green, and the flowers it bears in early summer are fragrant
and lilac-pink with cream-colored stamens. These give rise to
round, shiny, orange-red hips that cling to the canes well into
winter. This is an excellent shrub for areas that have dry climates and
- 'Swamp Rose' (Introduced - 1824)
- Few roses tolerate poorly drained soils; this shrub thrives on
them. This makes the swamp rose a prize for gardeners in
search of a shrub for a low-lying damp spot. Yet this rose need not
be confined only to wet situations, for it also flourishes on
ordinary, well-drained garden soils. In fact, the swamp rose, with its
graceful, semi-weeping form, is an asset to any landscape. Its nearly
thornless canes bear fragrant, vivid pink, double flowers amid
narrow, willow like leaves. More gardeners should consider this easy,
lovely shrub for gracing the edges of their ponds or streams.
- 'Virginia Rose' (Introduced - prior to 1807)
- Despite its name, the Virginia rose grows wild far to the north
and south of that state, for it ranges naturally from
Newfoundland south to Alabama and west to Missouri. Wherever it
grows, this rose offers year-round color: bronzy new foliage in
spring; bright cerise-pink flowers with pale centers in midsummer;
bright red hips and leaves that turn shades of red, yellow, and
orange in fall; and arching red canes in the dead of winter. Such a
tough, hardy shrub definitely deserves a spot somewhere in the
garden, although it is especially useful for naturalized areas or slopes
where few other roses would put on such a grand four-season
display of color.
- 'Wingthorn Rose' (Introduced - 1890)
- Everything about this rose is extraordinary. The rule for roses is
that petals are borne in multiples of five, yet the wingthorn
rose's small white blossoms have just four. Most gardeners, in any
case, regard this rose's flowers as insignificant; instead they cultivate
the shrub for the spectacular thorns, which may measure an inch
(2.5cm) across the base and which are scarlet-colored and
translucent on young canes. For the best display, the wingthorn rose
should be cut back hard in spring to encourage abundant new
growth. When less severely pruned, it can serve as a formidable
barrier hedge. The fernlike foliage makes this an attractive shrub, and
when set where the sun can backlight the jewel-like thorns, the
effect can be magnificent.
- 'Yellow Lady Banks Rose' (Introduced - 1824)
- Blooming in early to late spring, depending on the climate, this
rambler produces sprays of clear yellow, double flowers, each
1 in (2.5cm) across. Although this rose is not hardy where winter
temperatures drop below 10°F (-12°C), its disease
resistance, thornless canes, and free-flowering habit make it popular in
milder climates. In colder regions, this
rose makes an excellent container plant if moved to a sheltered
area in winter.
There is also a white form of this species, Rosa banksiae banksiae
(sometimes listed as R. banksiae alba-plena), whose blossoms offer a
stronger, violet-scented perfume.