Rosa canina

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Name: Rosa canina Linnaeus
Family: Rosaceae, the Rose Family (1)

Common Names:  Dog rose, dog brier, wild rose (5,6,13).

Etymology: ‘Rosa’ is the Latin word for ‘rose’, and ‘canina’ in Latin means ‘of a dog’ or ‘mean’ (1,3).

Botanical synonyms: Rosa corymbifera Borkh., R. dumetorum Thuill., and R. ciliatosepala Blocki (2,6).

Quick Notable Features:
¬ Alternate, odd-pinnately compound, serrate leaves
¬ Conspicuous stipules, fused to petiole
¬ Showy white/pink flowers with many stamens and pistils in a hypanthium
¬ Bright red hips with no sepals

Plant Height: R. canina grows up to 3m tall (10).

Subspecies/varieties recognized (6,7):
Rosa canina var. dumetorum (Thuill.) Poir.,
Rosa canina
var. canina L.,
Rosa canina var. corymbifera Rouy,
Rosa canina
var. andegavensis Arechav.,800px-Rosa_canina_blatt_2005.05.26_11.50.13
Rosa canina var. evanida (Christ) P.V.Heath,
Rosa canina var. frutetorum (Besser) P.V.Heath,
Rosa canina var. libertiae (Dumort.) P.V.Heath,
Rosa canina var. Montana (Vill.) P.V.Heath,
Rosa canina var. sepium Arechav.,
Rosa canina var. subcanina (Christ) P.V.Heath,
Rosa canina subsp. andegavensis (Bastard) Vigo,
Rosa canina subsp. virens (Wahlenb.) Šmite.

Most Likely Confused with: Rosa eglanteria, R. micrantha, R. setigera, R multiflora, and Rubus ssp. (1,9).

Habitat Preference: The species is found in open, disturbed habitats such as roadsides, old pastures, fields, dry banks, and thickets. R. canina requires at least partial sun, and high levels of soil moisture (1,5,9,10).

Geographic Distribution in Michigan:

Geographic Distribution in Michigan: The species grows in six counties of the lower peninsula: Benzie, Hillsdale, Kent, Leelanau, Lenawee, and Wayne (2,19).

Known Elevational Distribution: In Turkey, R. canina is found up to 3000m above sea level (13).

Complete Geographic Distribution: Native to Europe, R. canina is also found in north Africa and southwest Asia. It has escaped from cultivation in the United States (AL, AR, CA, CT, DC, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV) and Canada (BC, NB, NS, ON, QC) (2,5,10).

Vegetative Plant Description: R. canina is a tall, fast-growing, deciduous shrub, capable of climbing. The stems are armed with broad-based, hooked thorns, 3-8mm long. The stipules are mostly fused to the petiole, linear, and up to 4mm 0969broad. The leaves are pinnately compound, alternate, usually glabrous, with 5-7 leaflets (1.5-4cm long, 1-2.5cm broad), usually glandless, serrate, acute, and ovate to elliptical (1,8,10,14,15).

Climbing Mechanism: R. canina climbs using its hooked thorns (16).

Flower Description: The terminal, perfect, actinomorphic, aromatic flowers are usually solitary or few, approximately 4-5cm broad. The pedicels, hypanthium, and receptacle are unarmed and glabrous. The five sepals are reflexed, pinnatifid-lobed, deciduous, and less than 3cm long. The 5 petals are white or pink, usually 2-2.5cm long. The globose hypanthium wall is visibly thickened in the region of the 1mm orifice. The disc resembles a nectary, but no nectar has been observed. Each flower has many stamens (1cm long) and many superior pistils. The styles are short, usually glabrous, and distinct (1,8,9,14,17,18).

Flowering Time: May-July (1).

Pollinator: In addition to being able to self fertilize, insects such as bees, flies, beetles, moths, and butterflies can pollinate R. canina, which attracts them with its showy flowers and aroma (10,13,17).800px-Rosa_canina_fruits

Fruit Type and Description: The fruits are hips (a hypanthium enclosing achenes), usually 1.5-2cm long, bright red when mature, and glabrous. The hips overwinter on the plant (9,13,15).

Seed Description: The seeds of R. canina are asymmetric, yellowish to light brown in color, measuring approximately 2-3mm across its widest point, and 5 mm long, surrounded by hairs. They may take up to 2 years to germinate (2,10).

Dispersal Syndrome: Seeds of R. canina are dispersed by birds and mammals, which are attracted to the fleshy hip. The plant reproduces vegetatively by layering and cuttings; layering has higher success than cuttings (8,12).

Distinguished by: The leaves of R. canina are rarely fragrant, while the leaves of R. eglanteria are aromatic when crushed, as well as glandular and pubescent. Further, the sepals of R. eglanteria are persistent, and the styles are pubescent. In both R. eglanteria and R. micrantha, the hypanthium wall is not conspicuously thickened in the region of the orifice, as in R. canina. R. micrantha leaves are glandular, unlike the leaves of R. canina, and the base of each leaflet is narrower. The flowers of R. micrantha are generally smaller than the flowers of R. canina, only measuring about 3cm wide. R. setigera and R. multiflora are also climbing roses, but in both species the styles are grouped into a distinct pillar with approximately the same length as the stamens. R. setigera flowers are usually larger (4-8cm across) than the flowers of R. canina, the corolla is pink and the leaves usually have three leaflets. R. multiflora’s flower is similar in size and color to R. canina, but the inflorescence is a corymb or panicle and R. multiflora may have more leaflets (7-9). The hip of R. multiflora is red, but smaller (6-9mm long) than the hips of R. canina. While species of the genus Rubus are also spiny, they bear a flattened hypanthium, the fruit is an aggregate of drupelets rather than enclosed achenes, the sepals are nearly as long as the petals, the leaves are palmately compound, and the stipules free from the petiole (1,9,14).

Other members of the family in Michigan: Rubus (49), Crataegus (42), Rosa (17), Prunus (16), Potentilla (11), Geum (9), Amelanchier (6), Spiraea (6), Agrimony (5), Malus (4), Sanguisorba (3), Sorbus (3), Physocarpus (2), Fragaria (2), Gillenia (2), Photinia (2), Argentina (1), Aruncus (1), Chamaerhodos (1), Comarum (1), Dalibarda (1), Dasiphorda (1), Duchesnea (1), Filipendula (1), Pyrus (1), Sibbaldiopsis (1), Sorbaria (1), Waldsteinia (1) (source 2).roca3_002_lhp

Ethnobotanical Uses: The fruits of R. canina are edible and made into syrups, jams, and tea, which can be used as a nutritional supplement. The seeds are rich in vitamin E and can be ground and combined with other foods. A tea can be made from the dried leaves, used instead of coffee. Petals are also edible and may be used to make jams. Petals and hips are used to treat diverse digestive ailments such as gastritis and diarrhea. The hips are also used to treat colds and flu. The seeds are used to expel intestinal worms. A distillation from the plant can be used as astringent lotion for sensitive skin. Mixed with other herbs, R. canina water can be used to treat acne, asthenia, cardiopathy, sunstroke, and constipation (5,8,10).

ROSARosacaninaMAPPhylogenetic Information: Rosa is in the subfamily Rosoideae within the Rosaceae, which is in the order Rosales, a Eudicot clade of the angiosperms.  Members of the Rosaceae family can be found worldwide, and the genus Rosa is found in north temperate climate zones (4).

Interesting Quotation or Other Interesting Factoid not inserted above: In England, the larvae of insects of the genus Rhodites produces galls on R. canina leaves. The plant was of economic importance in Tunisia, and celebrated yearly with a rose festival (8,11).

Literature and websites used:

  1. Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray’s Manual of Botany, 8th ed. New York, USA: American Book Co.
  2. The PLANTS Database: USDA, NRCS, 1991-2007.
  3. Brown, R.W. 1956. Composition of Scientific Words. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  4. Stevens, P.F. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 June 2008.
  5. Magee, D.W. & H.E. Ahles 1942. Flora of the Northeast: A Manual of the Vascular Flora of New England and Adjacent New York. University of Massachusetts Press.
  6. Missouri Botanical Garden. 25 Jul 2011
  7. The International Plant Names Index 2005. Published on the Internet [accessed 25 July 2011].
  8. Ghrabi, Z. 2005. A Guide to Medicinal Plants in North Africa: Rosa canina L. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: Malaga, Spain. Pages 229-231.
  9. Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles, and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.
  10. Plants For A Future, 1996-2010.
  11. Connold, E.T. 1902. British vegetable galls: an introduction to their study. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
  12. Herrera, C.M. 1989. Frugivory and seed dispersal by carnivorous mammals, and associated fruit characteristics, in undisturbed Mediterranean habitats. Oikos 55: 250-262.
  13. Bilir, N. 2011. Fertility variation in wild rose (Rosa canina) over habitat classes. International Journal of Agriculture & Biology 13: 110–114.
  14. Gleason, H.A. 1963. Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, Volume 2. New York, New York: Hafner Publishing Company, Inc.
  15. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. 2011. Rosa canina. University of Washington. Seattle, WA.
  16. Herrel, A., T. Speck, and N.P. Rowe 2006. Ecology and biomechanics: a mechanical approach to the ecology of animals and plants. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida.
  17. Hickey, M. & C. King 1997. Common Families of Flowering Plants. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  18. Drabble, E. & H. Drabble 1927. Some Flowers and their Dipteran Visitors. New Phytologist 26(2): 115-123.
  19. Michigan Flora Online. A.A. Reznicek, E.G. Voss, and B.S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. 01-27-2012.

Image Credits (all used with permission):
1. Image of habit courtesy of Luigi Rignanese,
2. Image of leaf courtesy of Michael Becker Rosa_canina_blatt_2005.05.26_11.50.13.jpg
3. Image of flower courtesy of Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy,
4. Image of fruit courtesy of Júlio Reis,
5. Image of seed courtesy of Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
6. Species distribution map, derived from the Michigan Flora Online.

Primary Author: Cristine V. Santanna, with editing by John Bradtke and Robyn J. Burnham.

© Robyn J. Burnham, University of Michigan

For additional information on Michigan Plant Diversity web pages please contact Robyn J. Burnham via email: rburnham“at”