Rugosa Rose
Rosa rugosa
Rose family (Rosaceae)

Description: This wildflower is a branching woody shrub about 2-6' tall. Older branches are woody, brown, and glabrous, while young shoots are light green and densely hairy. Both branches and shoots are covered with straight prickles of varying lengths. Alternate compound leaves occur along young shoots; they are widely spreading and odd-pinnate with 5-9 leaflets. The leaflets are about 1-2" long and about one-half as much across; they are oblong-ovate or oblong-obcordate, crenate-serrate along their margins, and rather thick-textured. The upper surfaces of the leaflets are dark green, hairless, shiny, and conspicuously wrinkled along their veins, while their lower surfaces are more whitish green from dense pubescence. The central stalk (rachis) of each compound leaf is light green and pubescent; its underside has small prickles. 

The petiole of each compound leaf is rather stout, light green, and pubescent; at its base there is a pair of large lanceolate stipules about 1" long and one-third as much across. Each stipule tapers to a flared point. Upper shoots occasionally produce either individual or small cymes of 2-5 flowers on short branching peduncles. Individual flowers are 2-3" across, consisting of 5 petals, 5 sepals, a ring of numerous stamens, a flat-topped cluster of pistils, and a light green base. The broad rounded petals are widely spreading and often wrinkled; they are white, pink, or magenta (more often the latter). The sepals are light green to reddish green, linear-lanceolate, and glandular-pubescent. The blooming period occurs during the summer for about 3 months. The flowers have a strong fragrance that is typical of roses. The flowers are replaced by subgloboid fruits (rose hips) about -1" across that have persistent sepals. These fruits are initially light green, but they eventually become bright orange-red or red. Each fruit has a dry pulp containing several bony seeds. The root system is woody and branching, producing vegetative offsets from underground runners.

Cultivation: The preference is full to partial sun, moist to dry-mesic conditions, and sandy soil. This shrub also adapts to fertile loam and other kinds of soil. It is more tolerant of salt than most plants.

Range & Habitat: While it is often cultivated, the non-native Rugosa Rose rarely naturalizes in Illinois. However, it may have some potential to become invasive in sandy habitats, particularly near Lake Michigan. It may also adapt to sandy roadsides where road salt is applied. Rugosa Rose is already well-established in sandy areas along the Atlantic coast of New England. In addition to its use as an ornamental plant, Rugosa Rose has been used for erosion control along beaches and to help stabilize sand dunes.

Faunal Association: Only pollen is offered as a reward for flower-visiting insects. The flowers of Rosa spp. (Roses) are cross-pollinated primarily by various long-tongued bees, particularly bumblebees. One bee species, Synhalonia rosae, is a pollinator-specialist (oligolege) of roses. Other floral visitors include Halictid bees and Syrphid flies. The bees collect pollen for their larvae, while the flies feed on pollen. Some bees use roses as nesting material; Megachile spp. (leaf-cutting bees) use pieces of rose petals and leaves as partitions in their nests, while Ceratina spp. (little carpenter bees) sometimes create nests within broken-off stems by removing the pith. Other insects feed on various parts of rose bushes more or less destructively. These insect feeders include aphids, larvae of wood-boring beetles, weevils, scarab beetles, flea beetles (Altica spp.), thrips, larvae of gall wasps (Diplolepsis spp.), larvae of sawflies, and larvae of moths (see Moth Table). With the exception of moths, the Insect Table lists many of these species. Rose hips are eaten by upland gamebirds and some songbirds; this includes the Greater Prairie Chicken, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Cardinal, and others. The White-Footed Mouse and Deer Mouse also eat rose hips and possibly the seeds. White-Tailed Deer and Cottontail Rabbits browse on the leaves occasionally.

Photographic Location: A garden at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, Illinois.

Comments: Attractive foliage and fruit, fragrant flowers, and ease of cultivation are some of the attractive features of this rose. Some cultivars produce double flowers. Escape into the wild is always possible because birds and other animals eat the rose hips containing the seeds. The underground runners of this rose may survive earth-moving operations and establish new plants in other areas. Rugosa Rose is one of the easier rose species to identify because of its distinctive wrinkled leaves; other roses have leaves that are more smooth. Other distinctive characteristics of Rugosa Rose include unusually large rose hips (about 1" across), an abundance of straight prickles on its branches and shoots, and flowers with bright magenta petals that tend to be floppy and wrinkled. However, flowers with white or pink petals also occur.