Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Rosa woodsii (Wood's Rose)


 Plantae – Plants


 Tracheobionta – Vascular plants


 Spermatophyta – Seed plants


 Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants


 Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons






 Rosaceae – Rose family


 Rosa L. – rose


 Rosa woodsii Lindl. – Woods' rose

A superb native rose, Rosa woodsii has rose-pink flowers in early June.

The bright red hips persist throughout winter, and are used as food by birds.

A fast grower, the Wood's Rose quickly reaches 4.'

It is the hardiest of the natives roses I carry, surviving in the harsh conditions from the Rocky Mountains through the Cascades, USDA zones 4-6.

It is drought tolerant, needs little sun and can survive on steep, rocky slopes with little topsoil. An excellent choice for difficult sites.

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

Riding horseback through the Rocky Mountains with the blazing sun scorching the dry earth, you can chance upon the most ruggedly beautiful of shrubs – the Wood’s Rose. So delicate the flowers, yet hardy enough to survive the harsh climate, the Wood’s Rose nestles itself into crevices in the rock at the base of the mountains, and along streams and rivers.

Here the winter lasts well into May and the spring is but a brief gasp of warmth, followed by the searing heat of the July sun reflected off the towering rock face of the mountains. And yet this fabulous wild rose survives year after year, providing a myriad of birds and mammals with shelter and food.

The Wood’s Rose is a small shrub, demanding very little by way of fertilization, pest and disease control and pruning, yet offers beautiful foliage, flowers and hips. Easier to maintain than domesticated varieties, the Wood’s Rose is an excellent choice for garden culture in a harsh climate.

Description: At maturity, the Wood’s Rose can reach heights of 6’, but more commonly grow to 3’, with a spread of 3-6’. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, with five to nine serrated leaflets measuring ¼ - 21/2” long. The thorns of the Wood’s Rose are straight or slightly curved and tiny, only 1/5 – 1/3” long. The thorns are straighter and generally less troublesome than those of other roses, being less likely to tear skin and clothing.

The flowers of the Wood’s Rose are small, only 2-2 ½” wide, ranging in color from light to dark pink and smelling sweet and strong. The shrub is literally covered in blooms, and although each flower generally lasts for only one day, others follow quickly and the entire shrub blooms for many weeks.

After flowering, small, round fruit called hips form. The seed, which are covered in stiff hairs that can irritate the mouth and hands, are stored inside the fruit.

The Wood’s Rose begins to bear flowers and fruit when only 2-5 years old. All wild roses sucker freely and can form dense thickets, the Wood’s Rose in particular. While these stands are impossible for humans to traverse, they form a perfect habitat for small mammals and birds, providing refuge from predators and an ample food supply in the hips and foliage.

The name Wood’s Rose comes not from its growing location but from the name of Joseph Woods, a botanist who specialized in roses. “Rosa” means “red” in Latin.

Habitat and Range: The Wood’s Rose is found in a wide variety of locations, being a highly adaptable plant. Unlike the Bald-Hip, Nootka and Clustered Rose, it is not found on the coast. It is a far hardier plant, requiring only 150 frost-free days to survive, zones 4 - 6.

It grows in boreal and sub alpine forests as well as dry slopes, sandy sites, riverbanks and disturbed sites. Its range is similarly extensive, stretching from Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, in the northwest, east to Alberta, Canada south to Arizona, northern Mexico, western Texas and north to western Kansas and North Dakota.

It is evident that this variety can tolerate a wide variety of climates and growing conditions.

Ornamental Value: The Wood’s Rose is an excellent ornamental plant, with its clusters of fragrant flowers, long blooming cycle and stunning fall color. The flowers are spectacular in their shades of light or dark pink, becoming clusters of lovely red hips. In fall the leaves turn hues of red, orange, or purple, depending on the amount of sun at the site: the brighter the location, the more color in fall.

Native Plant Gardening/Wildlife Habitat: The hips of the Wood’s Rose serve as a high protein food source for birds, squirrels, mule deer, coyotes and bear during the harsh winters when food is scarce. Small mammals and birds find protection from predators in the thorny branches. The pollen in the flowers feeds bees in summer.

Another interesting facet of the Wood’s Rose is its value as wildlife and livestock browse. Cattle, sheep, mule deer and other big game as well as porcupines and beavers all browse the new leaves of the Wood’s Rose, especially in early spring. This plant is quite capable of withstanding such browse and will readily resprout.

Restoration and Mitigation Value: The Wood’s Rose is an excellent species for erosion control, and regenerating troubled areas. Because it can grow in soils that are shallow, extremely sandy, dry or overly acidic or alkaline, it will succeed in difficult soils. Wild roses are able to grow on steep slopes. Their runners spread quite far from the parent plant, holding the soil as they spread and preventing erosion. For this reason they are very useful in stabilizing stream banks where erosion is highly detrimental. The Wood’s Rose is a rapid grower, even in areas with a very short growing season. Furthermore, it is not adversely affected by competition with grasses. The Wood’s Rose is therefore an invaluable species for restoring damaged or problematic areas.

Historical/Cultural uses: First Nations people used the hips of the Wood’s Rose as an emergency food source. Teas were made from the petals, leaves and inner bark. These were used to treat influenza, diarrhea and cold symptoms [Turner, p.197].

Edible and Medicinal Uses: The Wood’s Rose can be used as a food source, provided great care is taken. Positive identification and careful preparation are crucial prior to consuming any wild plant. Do not replace conventional medicine with a wild plant without consulting a health care professional first. Do not over harvest: make sure to leave an adequate supply of plant material for wildlife to feed on and for the plant to set seed.

Rosehips are best gathered in the late fall, after a frost, which softens them and increases the sugar content. These can be used to make jams, jellies, teas and syrups. In summer, the petals can be used to garnish cakes or ice cream, tossed in a salad for color or floated in a pitcher of lemonade or elderberry blossom tea. Trim off the bitter white base of the petals before using.

Propagation Techniques: The seeds of the mature Wood’s Rose can be collected and sown outdoors in the fall. Germination is slow, often taking two years. Scarification (nicking the seed with a knife or rubbing them with a nail file or sand paper) and stratification (packing seeds in a bag of moist peat moss in the freezer for two or three weeks) are two methods that can speed germination. The seeds of the Wood’s Rose are viable for 2-5 years. Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in July, although these may take as long as a year to become established. The cuttings may be more successful if soaked in a tea made from the leaves (Howarth and Keanne). By far the easiest way to propagate wild roses is to gently dig up the suckers and transplant.

Pests and Diseases: The Wood’s Rose is affected by a variety of diseases. It must be stated, however, that wild roses are far less susceptible to disease and recover far better than domesticated roses. The following diseases can affect the Wood’s Rose: leaf spots (various types), rust, gray mold, powdery mildew, common gall and stem canker.

A great way to help plants combat disease is to plant garlic or onion sets around the base of rose bushes. Maintaining good air circulation and spraying with compost teas or organic fertilizers are good methods of preventing disease.

To make a simple organic fertilizer and disease-preventing brew, fill a bucket halfway with water, then herbs. Cover and let sit in full sun for 48 hours. Strain and dilute with ten parts water to one part putrid brew (just a warning – this smells vile!). A combination of any of the following weeds and herbs can be used: horsetail, comfrey, stinging nettles, borage, nasturtiums, garlic (crush slightly), chamomile or yarrow. All are helpful in maintaining plant health, soil fertility and preventing disease. This is also a great way to use weedy plants that are pulled from garden beds.

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

Contact:  star@chillirose.com ~ Copyright 2012 © Wallace W. Hansen ~ All rights reserved