Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Botanical Classification
Multiflora Rose

Map of Geographic Distribution of Multiflora Rose
Multiflora rose is native to Japan, Korea, and Eastern China. It was first brought to the United States and Canada in the 1860s for use as root stock for ornamental roses. It is important to note that the multiflora rose is not invasive elsewhere. When brought to the United States and Canada it was used as a “living fence” plant, as highway buffer vegetation, and in a variety of disturbed land reclamation programs. Soon, though, the invasive and destructive potential of this plant was recognized. [1] Multiflora Rose can be found throughout the eastern half of the United States and in Washington and Oregon (as pictured above). It is not invasive elsewhere. It can endure a wide range of soil, moisture and light conditions and is able to invade fields, forests, dense woods, prairies, some wetlands, roadsides, pastures, and a variety of other habitats. Multiflora Rose has been placed on the “noxious weed” list in several states, including Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (refer to picture below). This list is preventing the sale and planting of it and also actively attempting to extirpate it from areas in which has become established. [2]

U.S. National Parks where Multiflora Rose reported invasive

Relatives In The Same Plant Family: Rose (Rosaceae)

Tall Hairy Agrimony (Agrimonia gyrposepala)

The Tall Hairy Agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala) is native to the United States and has its most active growth period in the spring. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. At maturity, the typical Tall Hairy Agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala) will reach up to 5.9 feet high. [3]

Littlehip Hawthorn (Crataegus spathulata)

The Littlehip Hawthorn (Crataegus spathulata) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the United States. Typical clusters of white flowers produce relatively small red fruit. These fruits are eaten by several specie of birds and other small mammals.[4]

Elegant Cinquefoil (Potentilla concinna)

Elegant Cinquefoil (Potentilla concinna) is a subshrub herb that has a duration which is perennial (i.e., it will grow year after year). Elegant Cinquefoil‘s (Potentilla concinna) floral region is North America US Lower 48 and Alaska, specifically in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. [5]


1. Allegheny Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) 2. Flowering Rasberry (Rubus odoratus) 3. Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina) 4. Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)
1. Allegheny Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) 2. Flowering Rasberry (Rubus odoratus) 3. Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina) 4. Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)

Note: Only multiflora rose has the combination of upright arching stems and fringed stipules. [7]

Multiflora rose is a perennial plant that can grow to be 15 feet tall and up to twice as wide. Its arching “canes” have thorns as wells as leaves that alternate on the stem and are divided into sharply jagged leaflets. The leaves alternate on the stem. Beginning in May and June, white and pink flowers appear. During the summer the flower develops rose hips, or small red fruits that remain on the plant throughout the winter and can last up to several years. The rose hips are eaten by a wide variety of birds and small mammals. One plant can produce as many as half a million seeds per year that can remain viable in the soil for as long as twenty years. [7] The combination of upright arching stems and fringed stipules distinguish multiflora rose from other rose species. Their stems can be either green or reddish and have prickles that often arch down to touch the ground. Their roots are capable of resprouting. Furthermore, stem tips that contact the soil surface are capable of rooting by a process known as layering. Layering forms new plants and this is how extensive thickets are produced. [8]

Interesting Fact: The name Multiflora means "bearing many flowers." Thus, multiflora rose is so-called because it produces many flowers in a cluster. (Native roses usually bear individual, unclustered flowers.)

Multiflora Rose in Flower
Multiflora Rose Flower Close-up
Multiflora Rose can reach 15 ft. tall
Multiflora Rose can reach 15 ft. tall

Mutliflora Rose Fruit
Mutliflora Rose Fruit

Multiflora Rose Seeds
Multiflora Rose Seeds
Multiflora Fringed Stipules
Multiflora Fringed Stipules

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) is invasive and illegal to plant in several states. This thorny, perennial shrub now infests more than 45 million acres through the eastern half of the United States. Its name is derived from the many clusters of white flowers born during May and June. Bushes can mature at a height and a diameter of fifteen feet or more. This plant is no joke! It is an ecological threat. Severe multiflora rose infestations can reduce pasture grazing for cattle and the accessibility and usefulness of other non-cultivated acres. It may also lower land values both for agriculture and for other uses, such as recreations and forestry.
To get rid of the multiflora rose it will take more than a one-time destructive effort. The problem is that wherever the multiflora rose has become naturalized, the soil near older plants soon contains a large seedbank. One plant can actually produce up to half a million seeds per year, which can remain viable in the soil for quite some time. If a pasture is cleared of older plants and then left untreated, multiflora rose will re-establish in areas where it existed earlier. Worse yet, the multiflora rose can multiply by layering. New plants can also arise from the shallow roots of older live plants. Multiflora rose is extremely prolific. If left undisturbed, several scattered multiflora roses can produce impenetrable thickets within just a few years. These thickets exclude native plant species and readily invade open woodlands, forest edges, successional fields, savannas and prairies. [6] [7]

Multiflora Rose

Multiflora Rose Control

Multiflora rose control must become a central part of each owner or operator’s continuing land-management plant. There are two necessary steps to this process. First, existing plant must be eradicated and then a yearly program must be set up to control seedlings as they appear. The destruction of existing plants can be completed either by chemical or mechanical treatments. It is best when these two methods are combined. An alternate method of control involved managed grazing by goats or sheep. There are also three biotic agents that provide natural biological control: rose rosette disease (a virus), rose seed chalcid (a wasp), and the rose stem girdler (a beetle). Unfortunately, the agents have yet to show significant reduction of multiflora stands in most areas to allow a reduction of chemical, mechanical, or grazing control. [6]

Labeled Herbicides and Recommended Application Methods and Timings for Control of Multiflora Rose
Labeled Herbicides and Recommended Application Methods and Timings for Control of Multiflora Rose

The Rose in Fiction: Beauty and the Beast

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In a much quoted verse, Walter de La Mare wrote:

Oh, no man knows,
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose.

Roses, without doubt, possess simultaneously the greatest antiquity and the widest popularity of all garden plants. Also, they are the most international. Questions including the time when roses were first cultivated by man, and the nature of the original wild species from which the first cultivated types arose, lie so far back before the dawn of written history that the answers must forever remain a mystery. Like lilies, roses have been symbolic plants, treated with care and reverence. Through the ages, much religious symbolism, superstition, folklore and tradition has attached itself to roses, and roses have been always an important component of art, poetry, film and, literature. [9] In the film, Beauty and the Beast, the rose the enchantress had offered the Beast was an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. Although the enchanted rose from Beauty and the Beast was not invasive it certainly had destructive potential. It is in this way that the enchanted rose and the multiflora rose share something in common-not to mention they are both be in the same family (i.e., Rosaceae), that is, if the enchanted rose were real. You never know! Be careful if an old beggar women comes to your castle one day and offers you a multiflora rose. My advice: Run!

The Rose in Fiction: Sleeping Beauty

The Rosaceae family includes over 100 species of flowering plants, most of which bear prickles or thorns as well as blossoms. Multiflora rose was widely planted as a thorny hedge, decades ago. It was originally introduced from Asia as a soil conservation measure, as a natural hedge to border grazing land, and to attract wildlife. Too late people realized how invasive this species is, and have gotten many a piercing while trying to remove it.
Thorn of a Multiflora Rose
As pictured above, this hard, viciously decurved thorn of the multiflora rose can slice an arm, lacerate an ankle, or in the case of cattle, shred an udder or scrotum so savagely the cow or bull dies from shock or infection. The curve of a Multiflora Rose thorn is toward the base of the cane, so a person brushing against the shrub is instantly impaled and moving forward merely drives the thorn deeper into one's skin or lengthens the scratch. During a less severe encounter, one in which a body merely bumps the cane, the thorn tip often breaks off in the skin, festering a day or two later. (Some people even have an allergic reaction to rose thorn scratches.) [11]

Sleeping Beauty makes several references to 'thorny hedges,' like multiflora rose. The following is an excerpt from Sleeping Beauty (take note of how the 'thorny hedges' and its properties are quite similar to multiflora rose):

"When Princess Aurora is born, the entire kingdom is delighted, except for the evil fairy Maleficent, who places a curse on the young beauty that only a prince can break. Sent into hiding for her own safety and protected by fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, 'Briar Rose' lives in the forest, unaware of her royal blood. Yet despite everyone's caution, the princess's destiny plays out as she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, falling into a deep sleep. It's up to the daring Prince Philip to brave the fire-breathing dragon and awaken the sleeping beauty with true love's kiss. But round about the castle where Prince Philip goes to see Princess Aurora there began to grow a hedge of thorns, which every year became higher, and at last grew close up round the castle and all over it, so that there was nothing of it to be seen, not even the flag upon the roof. But the story of the beautiful sleeping briar-rose, for so the princess was named, went about the country, so that from time to time kings' sons came and tried to get through the thorny hedge into the castle. But they found it impossible, for the thorns held fast together, as if they had hands, and the youths were caught in them, could not get loose again, and died a miserable death. After long, long years a king's son came again to that country, and heard an old man talking about the thorn-hedge, and that a castle was said to stand behind it in which a wonderfully beautiful princess, named briar-rose, had been asleep for a hundred years, and that the king and queen and the whole court were asleep likewise. He had heard, too, from his grandfather, that many kings, sons had already come, and had tried to get through the thorny hedge, but they had remained sticking fast in it, and had died a pitiful death." [10]
The wicked fairy anticipated princely intervention and establishes a thorny perimeter around the castle. Perhaps she could have also used multiflora rose for its thorny hedges and invasive properties.

Notice the thorny hedges, like multiflora rose, throughout this scene! Will Prince Philip make it through to the castle to save Princess Aurora? Find out in this Youtube clip!

[1]"Species Pages." The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington. N.p., 2005. Web. 20 Jul 2011.
[2]"Rosa multiflora (Multiflora Rose)." Invasive Species Leaflet. N.p., 03 Nov. 2010. Web. 20 Jul 2011.
[3]"Tall Hairy Agrimony (Gryposepala)." GardenGuides. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jul 2011.
[4] "Littlehip Hawthorn (Spathulata)." GardenGuides. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jul 2011.
[5] "Elegant Cinquefoil (Potentilla Concinna)." Sagebud. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jul 2011.
[6]Loux, Mark M., John F. Underwood, James W. Amrine, William B. Bryan , and Rakesh Chandran. "Multiflora Rose Control." Ohio State University Extension (2005): 2-8. Web. 24 Jul 2011.
[7] "Multiflora Rose." Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jul 2011.
[8] "Multiflora rose." N.p., 2002. Web. 20 Jul 2011.
[9]"Rose." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 24 Jul. 2011.
[10] The Grimm Brothers, . Sleeping Beauty. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jul 2011.
[11] "Multiflora Rose: A Thorny Topc." This Week at Hilton Pond. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jul 2011.