A rose arose but it wasn’t a rosy rose

    We can’t help loving roses, but they have a reputation for being difficult to grow. There’s an irony here that’s a little tough to swallow, because one of the most aggressive alien plants to spread itself over a large part of North America (Philadelphia included) is, in fact, a rose.

    Native to China, Japan, and Korea, Rosa multiflora was helped along its path to US domination by well-intended governmental agencies that promoted and distributed the plant for use as living fences, erosion control, embankment coverings, and wildlife habitat. Their good work was halted when the plant was finally recognized as a destructive invasive species in the last several decades.

    During the growing season, the multiflora rose produces a flush of small white single flowers that are very fragrant. After it finishes blooming it is hard to distinguish this particular plant from other much more desirable varieties.

    Winter is the time to pounce on these plants, because their distinctive shiny red hips are now very visible and make them easy to identify. If you notice these little berries in your garden, you’ve been multifloriated, probably by a bird whose droppings contained the seed. Removing the plants as you see them will keep them from squatting all over your property. If you’re curious, here’s more information on this plant and its wicked ways. What it won’t explain is why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to mass-distribute an exotic plant before the environmental impact was understood. But we’ll have lots of time to ponder this as we dig out multiflora rose roots.

     

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.