This small shrub is ½-2' tall, branching occasionally. The terete stems
are woody and brown below, becoming non-woody and light green above;
they are densely covered with fine straight prickles. Alternate
compound leaves develop along the non-woody stems; they are 4-5" long,
2½-3" across, and odd-pinnate with 7-11 leaflets. Each
compound leaf has a pair of stipules at its base about ¾-1" long; the
stipules are light green and smooth along their margins, tapering to a
pair of pointed tips. The petioles of the compound leaves are
light green to red
between their stipules. Individual leaflets are 1-1½" long and about
one-half as much across; they are broadly oblong to oblong-obovate in
shape and their margins are coarsely serrated. The tips of the leaflets
are blunt, while their bottoms are wedge-shaped (cuneate) to rounded.
The upper surface of the leaflets is medium to dark green and glabrous,
while the lower surface is light green and covered with fine short
pubescence. The leaflets are either sessile or they have short petioles
less than 1/8" in length. The rachises (central stalks) of the
compound leaves are light green to reddish green and they are covered
with short fine pubescence. The rachises are also grooved above and
rounded below; fine straight prickles along their undersides may, or
may not, be present.
Flowers are produced from upper stems either
individually or in groups of 2-4 on short corymbs (usually the latter).
The flowering stalks are light green and glabrous. Each flower is 1½-2"
across, consisting of 5 pink petals (rarely white), 5 green sepals, a
ring of numerous stamens, a flattened cluster of
short styles, and an inferior ovary that is glabrous. The petals
are obovate-orbicular in shape; sometimes they are somewhat bicolored
rays of pink on a lighter background. The sepals are narrowly
lanceolate and about one-half the length of the petals. The stamens and
styles are more or less yellow. The blooming period occurs from late
spring to mid-summer, lasting about 3 weeks. Individual flowers last
only a few days and they are fragrant. Afterwards, the flowers are
replaced by rose hips that are up to ½" across, globoid in shape,
glabrous, and bright red at maturity during the late summer or fall.
The fleshy interior of each rose hip is rather dry and contains several
seeds. At the tip of each rose hip, there persists 5 dried sepals;
these sepals are widely spreading. The chunky seeds are about 4 mm. in
length. The root system is woody, branching, and rather deep.
Sometimes small clonal colonies of plants are produced from
The preference is full or
partial sun, mesic to dry conditions, and a somewhat barren soil that
contains clay, rocky material, or sand. The hard seeds are difficult to
germinate and can lie dormant in the ground for many years. However,
once individual plants become established, they are easy to manage.
Drought-resistance is excellent.
Prairie Rose occurs occasionally in northern Illinois and scattered
counties elsewhere within the state (see Distribution
lies near the western range limit of this species in North America.
Habitats include upland prairies, hill prairies, limestone glades,
roadside embankments, areas along railroads, pastures, abandoned
fields, and fence rows. This small shrub tends to increase in response
to light or moderate grazing from cattle and other mammalian
herbivores. This shrub is also well-adapted to occasional wildfires, as
it is able to regenerate from its deep root system.
The flowers offer only pollen as a reward to
insects. These floral visitors include bumblebees and other
long-tongued bees, Halictid bees, Andrenine bees, various
and Syrphid flies. The Syrphid flies are too small to effectively
cross-pollinate the flowers. An oligolectic bee, Synhalonia rosae
specialist pollinator of Rosa
(roses). Many kinds of insects also
feed on the foliage, stems, and other parts of roses. These insect
feeders include grasshoppers, thrips, plant bugs, aphids, leafhoppers,
larvae of gall flies, larvae of gall wasps, weevils, flea
beetles, larvae of wood-boring beetles, larvae of sawflies,
caterpillars of moths. Some examples of these insects include
(Wild Rose Thrips), Dasineura
(Rose Hip Maggot), Typhlocyba rosae
(Rose-Grass Aphid), Merhynchites
(Rose Curculio), Altica rosae
Flea Beetle), Macrodactylus
(Rose Chafer), Allantus cinctus
(Curled Rose Sawfly), and Parasa
Caterpillar). Among vertebrate animals, the Greater Prairie Chicken and
Bobwhite Quail feed on the rose hips, while the Cottontail Rabbit and
White-Tailed Deer feed on the foliage (and sometimes the rose hips).
When the rose hips are eaten by these animals, the seeds of Prairie
Rose are carried to new locations where they can germinate. This is
because the hard coats of the seeds enable them to survive passage
through the gastrointestinal tract of such animals.
The wildflower garden of the webmaster in
Prairie Rose is one of several rose species (Rosa spp.
Illinois. This dwarf
shrub has surprisingly large and showy flowers that can occur in
various shades of pink, depending on the local ecotype. Prairie Rose is
similar in appearance and size to the native Pasture Rose (Rosa
), but it differs from the latter species in the
ways: 1) its flowering stalks and ovaries are hairless, rather than
glandular-hairy, 2) the sepals of its rose hips are usually more
persistent, 3) its stems are more densely covered with straight fine
prickles, 4) its flowers are more often produced in groups of 2-4,
rather than individually, 5) its compound leaves tend to have more
leaflets (usually 9). There are two varieties of the Prairie Rose, of
which only Rosa
is native to Illinois. The typical
variety, Rosa arkansana
, differs by having leaflet undersides
that are hairless. This latter variety occurs rarely within the state
as an adventive plant from the west. Unlike most authorities,
Mohlenbrock (2002) prefers to classify Rosa arkansana suffulta
distinct species, Rosa
. Another common of this shrub is the