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Swamp rose is a 3-6' upright perennial shrub displaying arching branches and fragrant, rose-pink flowers with centers of fluffy yellow stamens encircling a vivid-orange dot of styles. It grows best in slightly acidic, moist-to-wet soils in full sun, though it will tolerate light shade, medium-moisture soils, and seasonal flooding. Flowers, which are cross-pollinated by long-tongued bees, bloom for 6-8 weeks in June and July, followed by globular, seedy rosehips that are eaten and disseminated by birds and mammals. The finely serrated green leaves lining the thorny stems turn attractive shades of red in the fall. Swamp rose may be distinguished from other species by its curved prickles, compound leaves with 7 leaflets, and flattened disk of styles that is pink or orange-ish red rather than yellow. Though it doesn’t need structural support, it will resemble a climbing rose bush if grown on a trellis or wall.


While it isn’t susceptible to some of the insects and diseases that attack hybrid roses, the shrub will benefit from yearly maintenance to discourage other diseases and pests that occur in hot, humid weather. In late winter, prune overlapping branches, diseased areas, and spent blooms to increase air circulation and remove excessive leaves and weeds from the surrounding area.


Native habitats include acidic wetlands, wet thickets, stream banks, swamps, marshes, and ditches. Its presence is usually an indicator of high-quality wetlands. It spreads slowly by rhizomes to form a flowering hedge, which can help prevent erosion along the edges of ponds and bogs. Wonderful for rain gardens.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 3-6’ tall and wide.


Flowers best in full sun, but tolerates partial shade.


Prefers moist, rich, acidic soils but adapts to medium-or-wet loam, sand, or clay. Does not tolerate dry conditions.


Flowers bloom June-July and are 1 ½ - 3” across with 5 pink petals, 5 green sepals, a ring of yellow stamens, and a flattened cluster of pistils. Flowers are succeeded by dry and fleshy red rose hips containing several seeds.


Compound leaves typically have 7 finely toothed, dark green, elliptical leaflets that turn red in fall.


Stems are erect and often crooked and range in color from light or reddish green to brown. Stout, hooked prickles occur in pairs and are ¼” long and widely spaced.


Wildlife Value:

Host plant to 114 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including blinded sphinx and whitemarked tussock moths. Swamp rose is primarily cross-pollinated by long-tongued bees such as bumble bees. Other insects seeking pollen include halictid bees, syrphid flies, and tumbling flower beetles. Many insects feed on the foliage, flowers, and other parts of this and other roses. The fleshy rosehips are eaten by a wide variety of animals, such as rodents, skunks, and birds.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

The dried hips are extremely high in vitamin C and are used to treat diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer. The blooms are edible and contain compounds that help support the immune system.


Native Americans dried the rosehips to use for teas, soups, and stews.


The hips are also used in the cosmetics industry.

Rose, Swamp, Rosa palustris

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