What Is a Wild Rose Plant?

Like garden roses, wild roses belong to this Rosa plant family. Although hardiness varies, most wild roses are tough plants that tolerate a variety of temperatures in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10. Wild roses are known by a variety of common names, including pasture rose, Scotch briar or prairie rose. Though some wild roses are native to the United States, many, native to Asia, Europe or Africa, have become naturalized.

Species Roses

True wild roses are species roses that grow wild without the benefit of pesticides, fertilizer or supplementary watering. All garden roses are descendants of original wild roses. Although hundreds of hybrid wild roses exist, there are just about 100 true wild rose varieties. Unlike hybrid roses, wild roses consistently have exactly five petals. Most wild roses are pink, even though some may be white or red and a couple of varieties may have a yellowish tint. Wild roses generally fall into two major types: evergreen climbers and deciduous shrubs.

Evergreen Climbers

Evergreen climbing roses are vigorous roses that are acceptable for growing on a trellis or arbor, or you can enable them to sprawl on the ground. Native to China, McCartney rose (Rosa bracteata) is an evergreen climber that reaches heights of 10 to 20 feet. Masses of creamy yellow, lightly fragrant blooms appear in spring and last until early autumn. Eglantine (R. eglanteria), also known as or sweet briar, is an evergreen climber native to Asia, Europe and Northern Africa. The plant is a vigorous grower that reaches heights of 12 feet. Blooms are light pink. Lady Banks’ rose (R. banksiae), native to China, is a disease- and also pest-resistant climber that grows to heights of 20 feet or more. Clusters of small, sweetly scented, pale yellow or white flowers appear in early to late spring.

Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen tree roses are frequently seen growing in thickets around deserted homesteads and old farmhouses. Wood rose (Rosa woodsii) is native to the West Coast, encompassing an area extending from Alaska to California. The plant, which reaches heights of 2 to 5 feet, blooms from late spring to midsummer. The clusters of flowers vary from white to dark rose. Rugosa rose (R. rugosa), sometimes known as Ramanas rose, is a hardy plant native to many parts of Asia and Japan. At maturity, the plant reaches heights and widths of 3 to 6 feet. Both red and white types blossom in summer. Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana) is native to the West Coast from Alaska to California and as far east as the Rocky Mountains. Nootka rose grows to heights of 6 feet and widths of about 4 feet. Blooms, which appear in spring, are deep pink.


Wild roses are rambunctious, pest- and also disease-resistant plants that endure any soil type and grow practically everywhere, including on plateaus and prairies, in addition to in ravines and open woods. Since wild roses spread by an extensive root system, the plants serve as an effective erosion control on hard slopes and other harsh locations. Little, apple-like rose hips appear in late summer and frequently last for a lot of the winter. The hips, a rich source of vitamins C and A, are a significant source of winter sustenance for birds and mammals.

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