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When asked if we’re growing any roses here, my usual response is no.  Technically though, that’s not true.  We do have roses here at Curbstone Valley.  Wild native roses.

 

Wild Wood Rose (Rosa gymnocarpa)

Rosa gymnocarpa, also known as the baldhip rose (gymnocarpa means ‘bare fruit’), wood rose, or dwarf wild rose, is native to western North America from British Columbia south to California, and east to Idaho and Montana.

The wood rose is a deciduous arching shrub, generally less than three feet high, that is usually found in mixed open forest.  It grows well on slopes, spreading via underground runners, and is useful for erosion control even in poor soils.  Here this species prefers some shade, and our more healthy looking specimens are located at the edge of our forested areas, where they have some protection from the late afternoon sun.

This is a very prickly species of rose, and the new growth looks formidable at first glance.  The stems are covered with numerous straight prickles.  However, the new prickles are quite soft when they first emerge, and this early spring growth is favored by deer.

 

Newly emerging stem of Rosa gymnocarpa

 

Mature stem of Rosa gymnocarpa

Not uncommonly, we sight various species of snakes near the base of the plants as they emerge to sun themselves mid-morning, like this Santa Cruz garter snake.

 

A Santa Cruz garter snake lurks at the base of a wood rose

The small, single, fragrant, flowers emerge from May through July, and consist of five petals and five sepals, and are less than 3 cm in diameter.

 

Rosa gymnocarpa

 

Rosa gymnocarpa

 

Rosa gymnocarpa

 

Rosa gymnocarpa

Flower color ranges from pale lavender to dark pink.

The sepals do not persist on the mature hips, unlike some other wild rose species found in California.

 

Sepals do not persist on the mature hips of Rosa gymnocarpa

The pear-shaped hips are 6-10 mm across, and persist throughout the winter.  The fruits are eaten by various small mammals, birds, and insects.

Mature red fruits remain through the winter

This species is moderately drought tolerant.  Plants in shaded areas here survived our very dry summer last year, although those in more exposed areas, without supplemental irrigation, struggled significantly.

We’ve also noted that some plants in the garden area have some rather spectacular looking galls.

A leaf gall on one of our wood rose plants

Gall on the stem of Rosa gymnocarpa

A gall affecting the hip of Rosa gymnocarpa

Native American uses for this plant are numerous.  A poultice of chewed leaves was applied to bee stings by the Okanagan.  Pomo and Kashaya tribes used the fresh fruits as food.   The Thompson used a decoction of the bark as an eye-wash, and made a tea from the young leaves and stems.  The fruits were rarely eaten.  The woody stems were used to craft hoops for baby-carriers, and to make arrows. Children strung the hips together and used them as beads.  Okanagan-Colville, and Thompson tribes used large branches to sweep the area of the graves before burial to remove any evil influences. [1]

Rosa gymnocarpa

If you’re fortunate to have this rose growing in your garden, it can apparently be most successfully propagated by transplanting new sucker growth, and then leaving the transplant undisturbed.  Otherwise some nurseries specializing in California natives do occasionally stock this species.

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[1] Daniel E. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotanical Database