Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Rosa gymnocarpa (Bald-Hip Rose, Little Wild Rose)


 Plantae – Plants


 Tracheobionta – Vascular plants


 Spermatophyta – Seed plants


 Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants


 Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons






 Rosaceae – Rose family


 Rosa L. – rose


 Rosa gymnocarpa Nutt. – dwarf rose

This beautiful native rose is slender and delicate. It grows rapidly to 3-5' and is adorned with tiny 1" pink flowers with single petals in attractive clusters.

The foliage is fine, even lacy and the branches are bristled rather than thorned.

The naked hips are a brilliant red and remain on stems throughout winter.

This rose is native to the Pacific Coast in shady, moist locations. It will not, however, tolerate waterlogged soils. It is hardy from USDA zones 7-9.

The following article is by Colleen Stuckey, who lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Tucked amid the dense understory of the Pacific Coast rainforest, you may chance upon a tiny rose, delicate in every way. The Bald-Hip Rose seeks out a shaded location, reaching upwards towards the filtered light. It is a perfect choice for small, shaded gardens or woodland plantings.

The Bald-Hip Rose is an elegant rose, petite and graceful. Yet despite its delicate appearance, the Bald-Hip Rose is extremely hardy, surviving as far as 52° N latitude, from zones 7 - 9.

It grows quickly to 3’ and does not spread as fully as other wild roses, instead remaining a slender shrub.

Its alternate, pinnately compound leaves have five to seven ovate and serrated leaflets from ½ - 1” long and Ό -½” wide. The small, sweet-smelling flowers are pink and only 1” wide. Each flower has five petals and five small sepals which are only a ½” long. Unlike other roses, the sepals of the Bald-Hip Rose drop off as the fruit develops (hence the name). The fruits, called hips, of the Bald-Hip Rose are a mere Ό” long. Inside the hips are the seeds, which are covered, in a thick hair that can irritate the digestive tract if eaten.

The Bald-Hip Rose is very distinct from other wild roses. It is the smallest wild rose with the most delicate flowers and hips. It also has many tiny bristles on the stems where other wild roses have sharp, vicious thorns. The sepals of the Bald-Hip Rose do not persist on the hips as they do in other species. The Bald-Hip Rose is further distinct in that it prefers an alkaline soil (pH 6-8) and shady, woodland location from sea level to 5000’ elevation. Other wild roses tolerate far more acidic soil and prefer sunnier spots.

The Bald-Hip Rose, like all wild roses, spreads by runners. However, because it is such a slender plant, it does not form the dense stands common to other species.

The ideal location for a Bald-Hip rose is a moist, not wet, spot with filtered sunlight. The soil should be alkaline and not overly rich. This species is moderately tolerant of drought, so will not require a great deal of water.

Habitat And Range: Bald-Hip roses are generally found in open conifer forests from southern British Columbia to California and east to Montana. They are found in the following distinct geographical regions: the northern Pacific border, the Cascade Mountain Range, the Sierra Mountains, the northern Rocky Mountains and the Columbia Plateau (Fire Effects Information).

The Bald-Hip Rose often grows in the path of rainwater runoff and can help to locate seasonal waterways in dry periods

Ornamental Value: The Bald-Hip rose is a beautiful plant in a shaded garden. The delicate and inconspicuous nature of the Bald-Hip Rose lends well to combining with brassier plants.

The evergreen native Salal (Gaultheria shallon) would serve as a backdrop to accentuate the tiny flowers in summer and remain lush throughout the winter when the Bald-Hip Rose is bare of leaves. Another excellent choice would be Creeping Oregon Grape (Berberis repens), which flowers in May, before the roses. This low-growing plant would highlight the roses in summer, moving to center stage in autumn with its fiery display of color when the Bald-Hip Rose is leafless and barely noticeable.

Native Plant Gardening/Wildlife Habitat: The Bald-Hip Rose is a very resilient plant, surviving despite damage from logging and fire. Because it can survive a forest fire, it serves as a valuable browse plant for white-tailed and mule deer, especially when other plants have been killed. While the browsing itself rarely kills the Bald-Hip, the feet of the larger animals often crush the rhizomes, thereby injuring the plant. It will not, however, tolerate extended periods of harsh winter weather (Fire Effects Information website).

Restoration and Mitigation Value: The Bald-Hip Rose is able to grow on very steep slopes. The runners spread rapidly, holding the soil intact and are therefore invaluable in preventing erosion. They are also able to grow in areas with minimal amounts of topsoil and on north-facing sites.

Historical / Cultural uses: The leaves and bark of the Bald-Hip rose was toasted and smoked by First Nations people either on its own or mixed with other plants. Wild Tobacco (Nicotania attenuata), which was cultivated by several tribes, was combined with the leaves of Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. stolonifera), Pacific Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) and Dwarf Blueberry (Vaccinium caespitosum) or Red Alpine Blueberry (Vaccinium scoparium), the roots and leaves of Mountain Valerian, the leaves and bark of Bald-Hip Rose. The former plants were added to tobacco “to improve its taste and make it last longer” and smoked in pipes [Turner, p.219].

Edible and Medicinal Uses: The Bald-Hip Rose is not used as often as a food source as the other wild roses as the hips are so small. The petals, however, are edible and can be used to garnish appetizers or desserts. Trim the bitter white base before using. *Please use caution when preparing or eating any parts of a plant. Identification of the species and knowledge of a plant’s toxicity are both essential before using any plant species medicinally or otherwise. Please consult with a health professional before attempting to treat any ailment.

Propagation Techniques: The easiest way to propagate the Bald-Hip Rose is to carefully remove the suckers and transplant. Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in summer, but do not disturb the cuttings for at least a year.

Seeds can be collected and sown outdoors in the fall, although germination can take up to two years. To speed this process, first scarify the seed by nicking them with a knife or rubbing them with a nail file or sand paper, then stratify them by placing them in a bag of moist peat moss in the freezer for two or three weeks. The seeds of the Bald-Hip are viable once the plant reaches 3-5 years of maturity.

Plant Associations: In a natural setting, the Bald-hip Rose is found growing amid Dwarf and Creeping Oregon Grape (Berberis nervosa and Berberis repens), Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflora), Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Big Huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) and Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) (Fire Effects Information).

You can emulate this greatest design by planting these plants together in a shaded spot or create your own design. One idea is to combine Bald-hip Roses with a low-growing ground cover that also likes a shady spot, such as the evergreen Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum) or the tiny and delightful Twin Flower (Linnaea borealis). Try nestling a few Bald-Hip Roses at the back of a cluster of Western or even Sessile Trilliums (Trillium ovatum) and Trillium parviflorum) for blooms from Easter to July.

For a short comparison of northwest native roses, click here.

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Howarth, D. and Keanne, K. The Native Garden: Propagating and Wildcrafting of Native Plants. Canada: D. Howarth and K. Keanne, 1995

Klinka, K.; Krajina, V.J.; Ceska, A.; and Scagel, A.M. Indicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia. Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia Press, 1989

Pettinger, April. Native Plants in the Coastal Garden: A Guide for Gardeners in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver, British Columbia: Whitecap Books, 1996

Toogood, Alan. Plant Propagation Made Easy. London, England: Dent Co., 1993

Turner, Nancy J. Food Plants of British Columbia Indians. Victoria, BC: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1978

Vermeulen, Nico. Encyclopedia of Herbs. Vancouver, British Columbia, 1998

Fire Effects Information, USDA, Forest Services, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, Montana. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis

Plants for a Future (September, 2001) http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/pfaf

United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service (April, 2002) http://plants.usda.gov

Washington State Native Plant Society. 7400 Sand Pt. Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. (March, 2002) http://www.wnps.org

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