Wild Roses: Types and Identification

Roses are common flowers that are present in almost every state in the United States. Of course, in colder climates they tend to bloom and go dormant much sooner than areas that are warmer and more humid. With that said, you can pretty much plant them everywhere. They are very tolerant flowers and are quite hardy. In fact, in certain places in the country where frost comes early, you would think that the roses are done for good but sure enough once spring rolls around, they are back in style sharing their beautiful blooms.

Types of Wild Roses

They don’t die all that easily and that’s why it’s really important for beginner gardeners who may think that they have a brown thumb instead of a green thumb to try wild roses. If you are interested in adding some unpredictable beauty to your garden, you might want to consider cultivating wild roses. So what makes this type of rose “wild” compared to more domesticated varieties. How do we identify them among other flowers in nature? Here are some defining characteristics.

Wild Rose Identification Tips:  

How do I identify wild roses from domesticated rose plants? You can identify them by the number of petals on the flower, by the color, shape of their leaf and the way they bloom.

Look for its shrub form

If you want to get to know a particular type of rose, you have to check out its shrubs. The wild roses typically have stiff, straight stems, but other rose varieties have an arch. They grow both in the sun and in the shade so you can identify them by their growth as well.

Some species also have a sparse number of thorns, while others are quite thorny. They have a high density of thorns, especially around the flowers. The surrounding ecosystem where they will thrive will also give you a clue as to their type. Such as whether they live by the mountainside or they are found near sandy seashores or in a particularly dry or boggy area.

leaf texture and shape

Another way to identify wild rose plant is to examine their You Can Tell Them By Their leaf texture and shape. Wild rose leaves normally have leaflets on a single stem. You can find a big leaf and three or more leaflets around it. The edges are toothed and the leaf surface ridged or flat. A species called the rosa rugosa found in Northern Asia also called the Japanese rose, has corrugated leaf texture.

Basic characteristics of wild roses

Other features that you can use to identify wild roses in your area are the following:

When the flower blooms

Pay close attention to when the rose blooms. Do they flower only once a year, during the summer, or do they bloom towards the end of the summer season? If this happens, then chances are you’re not really looking at a wild rose. You may be looking at a variety that is cultivated but has gone wild.

Study the size. Wild roses tend to have smaller flowers and have pink-colored flowers although their pigmentation can be all over the map but primarily, their usual color is pink.

Wild rose petals and leaf

Five Petals
Five PetalsTake a look at the petals and the number of petals. Generally, wild roses only have five petals. When it comes to fragrance, it can be very strong or almost odorless. They can go both ways. Also see how they bloom. Sometimes they appear in singles or there’s a spray of them. Meaning there’s a huge cluster.

What are the most common varieties of wild roses?

Wild roses in the West:

Bristly rose (Rosa Nutkana)

These have pink flowers that are an inch wide. This variety can often be found on hillsides or near roadways that lead to hillsides.

Woods’ rose (Scientific name: Rosa woodsii)

These have white to dark rose-colored flowers. Both the nutkana and woodsii varieties can be found in dense thickets up to four or five feet in height. When planting these varieties, keep in mind the fact that they can grow quite thick. Working with thorny thickets isn’t exactly easy. So do yourself a big favor and spread out your woodsii and nutkana patches.

Rosa Woodsii

Leave more space than you normally do in your garden. Don’t think that you’re leaving too much space between the plants. They will quickly fill up that space unless you commit to proactive pruning.

Rocky mountain wild roses

Smooth Rose: If you are looking for wild roses all the way from Ontario in Canada down south to Texas, be on the lookout for Rosa blanda also known as the smooth rose. It climbs a vine and has light pink flowers that almost fade to white.

Prairie rose (scientific name: Rosa arkansana) is another rocky mountain flower that got its name from the Arkansas river.

Swap Rose – East to Nebraska

From the East Coast to Nebraska you would find Rosa palustris. These are swamp roses that can be found in boggy areas.

Carolina rose

 You can also find the Rosa Carolina. These are Carolina area meaning North and South Carolina roses. They both form small shrubs and have pink flowers that are two inches thick.

Domesticated rose varieties that have gone wild

Throughout the long history of rose cultivation and domestication, some older varieties ‘go feral’ or go wild because these varieties have fallen out of favor. Old commercial patches are neglected and pretty soon some of the roses bloom in the wild. Modern commercially popular rose varieties only remain ‘domesticated’ because they have to stick to variety standards and specifications. Should their popularity go away, expect some of today’s hot selling rose varieties to give rise to wild descendants.

Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa)

These are large 1.5 inches across, they have purple to pink flowers that are quite large and bloom during the summer and have corrugated leaves.

Rosa rugosa

Sweetbriar Rose (Rosa eglanteria)

These are the Eglantine roses in Shakespeare’s work. They have tiny pink flowers and foliage that smells of apple pie. They also form large shrubs.

Seven-sisters Rose (Rosa multiflora)

This is an ancient species and is often considered a noxious weed in many places, but they do produce large white rose flowers that bloom in clusters. The Rosa multiflora can grow really tall. We’re talking about fifteen feet.

If you are looking to put something wild and interesting in your garden, definitely try wild roses. Let’s put it this way, by adding a little bit of wildness and unpredictability to your backyard garden patch, you’ll have something different from your neighbors. In fact, you get a nice little conversation starter right at your backyard.