Tag Archives: wild rose

Plant of the day: California rose

This wild rose is a favorite sight in spring and summer, as pink blossoms give way to ripe red fruit. This is the California rose (or as it is conversely known in Latin, Rosa californica), which grows in nearly every county in California, as well as in parts of Oregon.

This hardy shrub can look scraggly, but also can be groomed into a good garden plant, with pale green leaves and colorful fruit and flowers. It grows to 8 feet tall but is usually smaller. The tangle of thorny branches make excellent shelter for birds, and I’ve spotted many a nest by peering into a wild rose bush.

Rose hips are a renowned source of Vitamin C, and you can make an immune-boosting tea just by pouring boiling water over the red fruit. The hips can also be eaten fresh, though the inner bit is unappetizing, filled with seeds and strange stiff hairs. But the thin outer layer of flesh is tasty–I usually eat it by splitting the fruit open with a fingernail and scraping out the seeds. But this is labor intensive, and rose hips were never a significant food source for Native Americans. There was some medicinal use, though. A tea of wild rose hips was used to treat fever, sore throats and stomach aches–as well as to wash sores and sooth the pain of babies.

There are several different kinds of wild roses in California, and they all look fairly similar. The California rose (according to the Marin Flora) has the brown remains of its sepals at the tip of its ripe hips, and also tiny hairs visible on the stems of its leaves. It grows in full sun and partial shade, and in both wet and dry areas.

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Plant of the day: wood rose

Rosa sp.

In spring, the native roses bloom with graceful pink blossoms. In the summer, they are decked with clusters of red fruit. And year-round, the elegant bushes are lush with small round leaves. A wild rose is a treat in any season or any setting, whether forest or garden. Telling the different species apart can be tricky (the local key requires fruit which isn’t helpful in spring). But at this time of year, the wood rose–Rosa gymnocarpa–stands out because it loses its sepals as its fruit begins to ripen; other species retain the sepals (and sometimes the dried remains of the stamens too) on the ends of the fruit. One of its other common names is “bald hip rose”.

Though technically edible, the small red hips are packed full of seeds that are nestled inside a dense layer of hair that grows on the inside of the fleshy shell. Not exactly succulent, they have a tart, good-for-you, vitamin-C kind of tang. I read that the seeds are a good source of Vitamin E. The petals also can be eaten, and both petal and hip can be steeped for a tea. Historically, leaves were sometimes chewed as a remedy for bee stings, while the soaked bark was a wash for sore eyes.

See how the end of the fruit is smooth?

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Filed under Edible, Good for gardens, Medicinal, Native, Plant of the day