This is a shrub about 3-8' tall that has branching woody stems. These
stems are erect, ascending, or arching, and they are often crooked. The
stems are light green, reddish green, dark red, or brown; they are
terete, glabrous, and prickly. The prickles are widely spaced,
occurring individually or in pairs. Paired prickles occur either on
opposite sides of the stems, or they form a 90º angle from each other.
The typical prickle is about ¼" long, curved, and rather enlarged at
the base. Alternate compound leaves occur along young stems; they are
odd-pinnate with 5-9 leaflets (usually there are 7). Individual
leaflets are 1¼-2½" long and ½-1" across; they are broadly elliptic or
ovate and serrated along their margins. The upper surface of the
leaflets is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower surface
is pale green and either glabrous or short-pubescent. The terminal
leaflet has a petiolule (basal stalklet) up to ½" long, while the
leaflets are nearly sessile. At the base of the petiole of each
compound leaf, there is a pair of narrow stipules about 1" long that
have smooth revolute margins; they become less revolute toward their
The upper stems occasionally produce either individual or
small corymbs of 2-4 flowers on short branches. Individual flowers are
consisting of 5 pale pink to rosy pink petals, 5 green
sepals, a ring of many yellow stamens, and a flattened cluster of
pistils that is yellow, pink, or reddish orange. The petals are
oval-obcordate in shape, while the sepals are lanceolate and
glandular-hairy. The pedicels of the flowers are also glandular-hairy.
The blooming period occurs from early to late summer for about 1-2
months. The flowers have a sweet fragrance that is typical of roses.
The flowers are replaced by globoid fruits (rose hips) about 1/3" (8
across that become red at maturity. The dried sepals on the fruits are
initially widely spreading, but they are later deciduous and fall to
the ground. The surface of the fruits is glandular-hairy, although it
may become glabrous with age. The interior of each fruit is firm,
fleshy, and slightly dry; it contains several bony seeds. The root
system produces woody rhizomes. Vegetative colonies sometimes develop
from the rhizomes.
The preference is full or
partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and an acidic soil containing
peat, sand, or muck. Light shade is also tolerated, although fewer
flowers will be produced. This shrub tolerates standing water quite
The native Swamp Rose is uncommon to
in most areas of Illinois, although it becomes rare in the western
section of the state (see Distribution
). Habitats consist of wet
sand prairies, swamps and sandy swamps, soggy thickets, peaty bogs,
gravelly seeps, marshes and sandy marshes, and ditches. In southern
Illinois, Swamp Rose is found in Bald Cypress swamps. It is usually an
indicator species of high quality wetlands.
The flowers are cross-pollinated
and other long-tongued bees. Less effective pollinators include
Halictid bees, Syrphid flies, tumbling flower beetles, and other
beetles. Only pollen is available as a floral reward. Many insects feed
on the foliage, flowers, and other parts of this and other roses. They
caterpillars of Parasa
(Stinging Rose Caterpillar) and
other moths, the larvae of sawflies Endelomyia aethiops
(Rose Slug) and
(Curled Rose Sawfly), Typhlocyba
(Rose Aphid) and other aphids,
(Rose Scale), Plagiognathus
(Rose Plant Bug),
(Rose Leaf Beetle) and several Altica
(Rose Curculio), Macrodactylus
(Rose Chafer), the larvae of Agrilus aurichalceus
Stem Girdler), the larvae of Oberea
Borer), the larvae of Rhagoletis
(Rose Hip Maggot),
(Eastern Flower Thrips) and Heterothrips
(Wild Rose Thrips), and other insects.
Some vertebrate animals also
feed on roses. The fruit (rose hips) is eaten by some upland gamebirds
(Ruffed Grouse, Prairie Chicken, etc.), songbirds (Cedar Waxwing,
Swainson's Thrush, etc.), small rodents (White-Footed Mouse, Woodland
Deer Mouse), and other mammals (Black Bear, Striped Skunk).
White-Tailed Deer browse on the twigs and leaves, while Beavers use the
woody stems as a food source and construction material for their dams
and dens. Birds that construct nests in the taller roses include the
Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Yellow Warbler, and
A sandy marsh at the Indiana Dunes National
Lakeshore in NW Indiana.
The Swamp Rose blooms somewhat later than other native roses.
It produces attractive pink flowers that are relatively large in size
and highly fragrant. It is also the only native or naturalized rose in
Illinois that has an affinity for wetlands, rather than upland areas.
Swamp Rose can be distinguished from similar species by a combination
of characteristics: its tallness, stout curved prickles, revolute
stipules with smooth margins, glandular-hairy sepals and
pedicels, and compound leaves with 7 leaflets (usually, although some
upper leaves have 5 leaflets). Swamp Rose has another characteristic
that is highly unusual: the flattened disk of styles in the center of
each flower is often pink or orange-red, rather than yellow. This
creates an interesting contrast of colors between the styles
and the surrounding stamens.