Dog Rose (Rosa canina) Linn

Dog Rose (Rosa canina) Linn

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Order: Rosales
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Subfamily: Rosoideae
  • Genus: Rosa
  • Species: R. canina

It has been said that any plant given the name ‘dog’ was christened so because it meant that it did not smell or was inferior to other plants. It was also believed that the root was effective against the bite of a mad dog.

The dog rose was the stylized rose of Medieval European heraldry, and is still used today [permision needed]. In the time of Henry VIII, Dog Roses were the symbol of the monarchy.

Rosa canina (Dog Rose) is a variable scrambling rose species native to Europe, including Britain, northwest Africa and western Asia. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist or wet soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure. Habitats hedges, scrub, woods, roadsides, banks etc. The wild plant is planted as a nurse or cover crop, or stabilising plant in land reclamation and specialised landscaping schemes.

This is the common rose of English hedgerows in summer. It is a deciduous shrub normally ranging in height from 1-5 m at a fast rate with strong arching branches, though sometimes it can scramble higher into the crowns of taller trees. The long arching stems are green to purple, browning with age and are covered with sharp, strong, hooked spines. The rose does not have thorns, but spines. A thorn is a modified branch or stem and is made from the same substance as the stem itself. A spine, on the other hand, is a modified leaf and is made from a different material than the stem on a base 15 mm long with the points angled downwards, which aid it in climbing. They are used to catch onto surrounding shrubs ant stems and shaped backwards to keep a better hold. It spreads by suckers into woodland margins, scrub and hedgerows. It is a useful hedge shrub and can help to form an almost impenetrable stock barrier. A very polymorphic species, it is divided into a great number of closely related species by some botanists.

The dark green to blue-green, alternate leaves are pinnate, with 5-7 leaflets 15-40 mm long, which have single or double-toothed saw-edges, and are usually hairless on both surfaces. Large, leafy stipules which run up the leaf stalks, are about 2 cm long. The leaves, when bruised, have a delicious fragrance.

The flowers are also fragrant. They are usually pale pink, but can vary between a deep pink and white. The bowl-shaped, 5-petalled flowers are 4-6 cm across and in clusters of 1-5. The styles in the centre of the flower are not joined together into a persistent, slender column. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies), Apomictic (reproduce by seeds formed without sexual fusion). The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife. They open in June and July and mature into an oval 1.5-2 cm red-orange fruit, or hip in autumn.

The dog-rose produces conspicuous scarlet hips in autumn, sometimes known as dragon’s eyes. These are edible and high in vitamin C, and they are often used to make syrup, jellies and other preserves as well as in the treatment of bladder and kidney disorders.Known Hazards There is a layer of hairs around the seeds just beneath the flesh of the fruit. These hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract if ingested.

Feeding and other inter-species relationships Associated with Rosa canina sens.str.:

  • fruit may contain larva Rhagoletis alternata – a gall fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) White, I.M., 1988

The fruit attracts, and is eaten by many species of birds and small mammals such as bank voles, several gall wasps, notably a gall-forming wasp which produces balls of crimson ‘moss’, called Robin’s pin-cushions (left), on the leaf stalks and Rose Pea gall (right, and spiky version below right) on the leaves. Other insects use the plant as a host such as the sawfly Blennocampa phyllocolpa (below far left), and gall flies such asWachtliella rosarum (below) Along with all there relative parasitoids and hyperparasitoids. Dog Rose is the food plant of the caterpillars of the following moths – V-Pug (Chloroclystis v-ata), Little Thorn (Cepphis advenaria), Shoulder Stripe (Anticlea badiata), Barred Yellow (Cidaria fulvata) and Streamer (Anticlea derivata) and as every gardener knows when it comes to roses, aphids are plentiful, which brings in their predatores; ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings.

The plant is high in certain antioxidants. The fruit is noted for its high vitamin C level and is used to make syrup, tea and marmalade. It has been grown or encouraged in the wild for the production of vitamin C, from its fruit (often as rose-hip syrup), especially during conditions of scarcity or wartime. The species has also been introduced to other temperate latitudes. Fruit – raw or cooked. It can be used in making delicious jams, syrups etc. The syrup is used as a nutritional supplement, especially for babies. The fruit can also be dried and used as a tea. Frost softens and sweetens the flesh. The fruit is up to 30mm in diameter, but there is only a thin layer of flesh surrounding the many seeds. Some care has to be taken when eating this fruit, see the notes above on known hazards. The seed is a good source of vitamin E, it can be ground and mixed with flour or added to other foods as a supplement. Be sure to remove the seed hairs. The dried leaves are used as a tea substitute. A coffee substitute according to another report. Petals – raw or cooked. The base of the petal may be bitter so is best removed. Eaten as a vegetable in China. The petals are also used to make an unusual scented jam. The hips are used as a flavouring in the Slovenian soft drink Cockta. Astringent; Bach; Cancer; Carminative; Diuretic; Laxative; Ophthalmic; Tonic; Vermifuge.

The petals, hips and galls are astringent, carminative, diuretic, laxative, ophthalmic and tonic. The hips are taken internally in the treatment of colds, influenza, minor infectious diseases, scurvy, diarrhoea and gastritis. A syrup made from the hips is used as a pleasant flavouring in medicines and is added to cough mixtures. A distilled water made from the plant is slightly astringent and is used as a lotion for delicate skins. The seeds have been used as a vermifuge. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Resignation’ and ‘Apathy’. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.

Forms of this plant are sometimes used as stocks for the grafting or budding of cultivated varieties. Numerous cultivars have been named, though few are common in cultivation. The cultivar Rosa canina ‘Assisiensis’ is the only dog rose without thorns.

Propagation Seed. Rose seed often takes two years to germinate. This is because it may need a warm spell of weather after a cold spell in order to mature the embryo and reduce the seedcoat. One possible way to reduce this time is to scarify the seed and then place it for 2 – 3 weeks in damp peat at a temperature of 27 – 32°c (by which time the seed should have imbibed). It is then kept at 3°c for the next 4 months by which time it should be starting to germinate. Alternatively, it is possible that seed harvested ‘green’ (when it is fully developed but before it has dried on the plant) and sown immediately will germinate in the late winter. This method has not as yet (1988) been fully tested. Seed sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame sometimes germinates in spring though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be sown as early in the year as possible and stratified for 6 weeks at 5°c. It may take 2 years to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Plant out in the summer if the plants are more than 25cm tall, otherwise grow on in a cold frame for the winter and plant out in late spring. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July in a shaded frame. Overwinter the plants in the frame and plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth. Select pencil thick shoots in early autumn that are about 20 – 25cm long and plant them in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame. The cuttings can take 12 months to establish but a high percentage of them normally succeed. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Plant them out direct into their permanent positions. Layering. Takes 12 months.

Grows well with alliums, parsley, mignonette and lupins. Garlic planted nearby can help protect the plant from disease and insect predation. Grows badly with boxwood. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus.

The plant can be trained over a trellis, arbour or a dead tree to good effect.

Other similar species include:

Rosa rubiginosa (Sweet briar or Eglantine Rose; syn. R. eglanteria)

This is a species of rose native to Europe and western Asia, from France and the British Isles north to southern Scandinavia and east to western Russia and Turkey.

Habitat: Hedge, Woodland, Sunny Edge, Dappled Shade, Open copses and old hedgerows. Usually found on calcareous soils, it is one of the first shrubs to colonize chalk grassland.

It is a dense deciduous shrub 2-3 m high and across, with the stems bearing numerous hooked thorns. The leaves are pinnate, 5-9 cm long, with 5-9 rounded to oval leaflets with a serrated margin, and numerous glandular hairs and the foliage has a strong apple-like fragrance. It is in flower from June to July and the flowers are 1.8-3 cm diameter, the five petals are pink with a white base, and with numerous yellow stamens; the flowers are produced in clusters of 2-7 together, from late spring to mid summer. The scented flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies and Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies). The plant is self-fertile. The fruit is a globose to oblong red hip 1-2 cm diameter and the seeds ripen from August to October. There is a layer of hairs around the seeds just beneath the flesh of the fruit. These hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract if ingested.


The name ‘eglantine’ derives from Latin aculeatus (thorny), by way of old French aiglant. ‘Sweet’ refers to the apple fragrance of the foliage, while ‘briar’ (also sometimes ‘brier’) is an old Anglo-Saxon word for any thorny shrub.

Rosa dumalis (Glaucous Dog Rose)

This is a species of rose native to Europe and southwest Asia. Not all authorities accept it as distinct, with the Flora Europaea treating it as a synonym of Rosa canina.

It is a shrub that grows 1-2 m high. It has long, bent thorns. It bears dark or light pink flowers in June and July. The hips are oval and quite soft. It may be confused with R. canina, but when flowering they are easy to tell apart since R. canina has white or light pink flowers.

Rosa glauca (Red-leaved Rose or Redleaf Rose; syn. R. rubrifolia)

This is a species of rose native to the mountains of central and southern Europe, from Spanish Pyrenees east to Bulgaria and north to Germany and Poland. This rose was not widely grown in gardens until the end of the 19th century, since then the species has become naturalised in northern Europe north of its native range, particularly in Scandinavia.

It is a deciduous arching shrub of sparsely bristled and thorny cinnamon-coloured arching canes 1.5-3 m tall. The most distinctive feature is its leaves, which are glaucous blue-green to coppery or purplish, and covered with a waxy bloom; they are 5-10 cm long and have 5-9 leaflets. The fragile, clear pink flowers are 2.5-4 cm diameter, and are produced in clusters of two to five. The fruit is a dark red globose hip 10-15 mm diameter.

A hybrid with Rosa rugosa has been given the cultivar name ‘Carmenetta’.

Species composition of hedgerows and verges have an infinite variety where not only are no 2 the same, but they are different every 100 yards or sometimes every few yards.