Wild Rose - a prickly affair but oh-so-fragrant!
Let's talk about Wild Rose! For this purpose of this post, I will focus on Dog Rose (Rosa canina) which is our native species, but there are many other species of Wild Rose in Ireland, notably Rosa rugosa which is naturalised here and native to north-eastern Asia. Both species belong to the plant family Rosacea. County Leitrim is nicknamed ‘Wild Rose County’ due to the prevalence of Dog Rose in the area.
Dog Rose is the most abundant and widespread of our Wild Rose species. You will mostly find it in hedges, but it also grows in meadows, woods, scrubland and at the woodland edge, where it scrambles to the top of trees and arches like a vine.
Dog Rose is a fast-growing shrub with incredibly prickly stems and sweet-scented flowers. The stems of Dog Rose are covered with small, curved thorns which aid the plant with climbing; its leaves are compound with 5-7 alternate leaflets that are lighter on the underside. The shrub produces fragrant flowers from June to August which mature into oval red-orange fruits (hips) in late summer. The flowers of Dog Rose have five-petals which range in colour from white to pale pink, with sepals that bend back after the flower has opened, and a cluster of yellow stamens at the centre.
Dog Rose is a great wildlife plant, attracting bees, butterflies, moths and birds. The density of its growth habit provides shelter for birds and small mammals such as hedgehogs. The fruits are eaten by birds and small mammals, who help to disperse the seeds.
The hips of Wild Rose have traditionally been foraged to make rosehip syrup, tea and marmalade, although they can also be used in the making of pies, stews, and wine. The flowers of Wild Rose can be eaten in salads, and candied or preserved in vinegar, honey and brandy.
During conditions of scarcity of citrus fruits - notably during World War 2, it was encouraged to harvest the hips of Wild Rose due to their high level of vitamin C. Rose hips have mild laxative and diuretic properties and can help treat urinary infections, and their iron content makes them an excellent supplement for menstruating women. The seed oil extracted from rose hips is valuable for reducing scar tissue and stretch marks due to its tissue regeneration properties. Because of Rose's anti-inflammatory properties, it may also be used to calm irritation resulting from rosacea.
Is there something you particularly like about Wild Rose? Or you have a special memory attached to it? I’d love to hear about to in the comments.