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Pasture rose is a lovely native alternative to the invasive multiflora rose that has taken over the eastern half of the United States. Pink, fragrant, rose-scented flowers with yellow centers bloom May-June and are followed by globular, bright red rose hips in August. This upright shrub grows 2-4’ tall and spreads easily by rhizomes in a wide range of moist or dry soils. Although it’s one of the more shade-tolerant roses, it performs best in full sun, which also helps control fungal diseases.


The deep taproot provides good drought resistance, and the plant has high tolerance for hot, dry weather. Mix it with competitive native prairie plants to keep its spreading habit manageable. Adding mulch in summer helps retain moisture and keep the roots cool. Prune in late winter to early spring.


Native habitats include glades, open woods, prairies and savannas, openings in woodlands, roadsides and railroads, stream banks and swamp edges, fence rows, and abandoned fields. Use it in the landscape as a ground cover, massed in shrub borders, in naturalized areas, or in native plant gardens. It also serves as a prickly privacy screen or hedge, and is great for controlling erosion on difficult-to-mow slopes. Because native roses are tolerant of extreme heat, drought, moisture, and cold, they’re ideal candidates for container plantings.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 2-4' tall; spreads by rhizomes to form small colonies.


Site in full sun for best flowering; tolerates part shade.


Prefers average-to-dry, well-drained loam, clay-loam, or sandy-loam soils. Tolerates other types of soils, including moist to occasionally wet.


Solitary pink flowers, 2-2 ½” across, consist of 5 petals, numerous yellow stamens, and a wide, flat pistil structure in the center of the flower. Flowers mature into fleshy, globular rose hips that contain many seeds. Hips are sometimes a little flatter than those of other native roses.


Alternate, compound leaves are 4-6” long and have 5-7 oblong leaflets that are about 2” long with sharply serrated margins. Fall color is orange-red.


New stems are hairless and green or pinkish red, while older branches are brown. The stems have slender, straight prickles that sometimes occur in pairs.


Wildlife Value:

Native roses are a host plant for 114 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including the moths wavy-lined emerald, crocus geometer, and polyphemus. Other important visitors to the flowers are long-tongued bees, such as bumble, anthophorine, and digger. Green metallic bees; syrphid flies; and various beetles also visit the flowers. Song birds, game birds, and small mammals eat the rose hips, including greater prairie chickens, ring-necked pheasants, bobwhites, rabbits, skunks, and white-footed mice. These animals spread the seeds across considerable distances. The leaves, buds, and twigs are browsed by white-tailed deer. Rose plants provide nesting materials for native bees and cover for birds and small mammals.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Rose hips have been used to treat itching and indigestion, and are being studied as a treatment for cancer. The flowers have been used to treat heartburn, and the roots are used as a wash for inflamed eyes and as a treatment for headaches and low back pain.


The fruit is high in vitamins and minerals such as A, B3, D, and E, flavonoids; tannins, zinc and essential fatty acids. The thin flesh of the fruit may be used to make jam, syrup, or tea, but care is advised because a layer of hairs around the seeds can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract. The flowers may be used in cakes and desserts or made into rose water.


After removing the white, bitter base of the petals, the flowers may be used to garnish desserts or freeze in ice cube trays to add to drinks. The petals can also be used in syrup, jelly, butter, and spreads.

Rose, Pasture, Rosa carolina

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