The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Trees & Shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

woods rose

Common Name
Woods' Rose (Mountain Rose, Western Rose)


Scientific Name
Rosa woodsii Lindl.


Plant Family
Rose (Rosaceae)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Early Summer Flowering



There are six species of wild rose on the current Garden Census. Details of each are given in a comparison table referenced below.

Stems: Woods' Rose grows erect to 3 to 10 feet, with branching stems that on old wood are reddish brown to gray. Both old and new wood have prickles, but less so on new wood. Prickles can be straight but usually have a curve.

Leaves are pinnate with 5 to 9 leaflets that are ovate to elliptic in shape, widest at or just above the middle. Each leaflet has sharp teeth, but fewer than on the other wild roses shown here. The teeth do not go all the way to the base of the leaf. Each leaflet has either a very short stalk or no stalk. The leaf has two wide stipules at the base where it joins the stem and at that node appear one or a pair of large red prickles - a characteristic of this species.

Flowers appear on branches lateral to old stems, either as solitary flowers or a few in a cluster. The hypanthium is ovoid with 5 spreading long-pointed narrow sepals. The pink flowers are 1 to 2 inches wide and have short pedicels (stalks). In the center of the 5 petals there are numerous yellow stamens surrounding a short, but wide column of greenish-yellow pistils rising from 20 to 40 carpels.

Seed: The sepals are persistent on the fruit which is a smooth, round to ovoid form reddish hip containing 15 to 35 achenes (the true seeds). Occasionally the hip may have fine hair. Wild Rose seeds should be sown outside in the Fall. They will germinate in the 2nd year as they need a cold moist period followed by a warm moist period followed by another cold moist period. If seed has been stored for the proper sequence of periods then it should be scarified before planting. Fall planted fresh seeds should not be scarified. While seed is cheap, bare root plants are usually available from native plant nurseries.


Habitat: Woods' Rose grows from a shallow crown but whose root tips go deeply into the soil; it grows in full sun or partial shade in soils ranging from sandy to light clay. The root crown can send up suckers. Plants first flower between 2 and 5 years of age.

Names: There is much variation in this species such that at one time up to 25 subspecies were proposed; many roses that were once classed or proposed as separate subspecies have been consolidated into this one with only six subspecies accepted today. Flora of North America has a good key (Ref. #W7). The genus Rosa, the Latin name for 'rose' needs no explanation. The species name, woodsii, is believed to be named by the plant classification author for English architect and botanical author Joseph Woods - 1776-1894, best known for his Tourist's Flora of 1852. The fern genus Woodsia, is also named for him.

The author name for the plant classification - ‘Lindl.’ refers to John Lindley FRS, English (1799-1865) English botanist who authored or co-authored a number of articles and books on plants, some with his own colored engravings; he was particularly interested in roses and orchids, an active member of the Royal Horticultural Society and a University professor. He published A Botanical History of Roses in 1820 which described 76 species.

Comparisons: See this comparison chart of the six species of wild rose in the Garden.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Woods' Rose flower Woods' Rose flower center

Above: A 2 inch wide flower typical of Woods' Rose. In the center of the 5 petals there are numerous yellow stamens surrounding a short, but wide column of greenish-yellow pistils.

Below: The sepals are very narrow and small compared to the pink petals. The sepals are persistent on the fruit which is in a smooth, round to ovoid form turning red at maturity.

Woods' Rose sepals Woods' Rose hips

Below: 1st photo - individual leaflets are either sessile or on very short stalks. 2nd photo - Rose hips forming with persistent sepals. 3rd photo - Prickles are more numerous on old wood, which has a reddish brown color.

woods' rose leaf detail Woods' Rose green fruit Woods' rose old stem

Below: A lower leaf with the maximum 9 leaflets. Note that the teeth are sharp pointed but do not go all the way to the base of the leaflet. Also note the two wide stipules at the the base of the leaf and the large prickle at the base of the stipule - which is a characteristic of this species.

Woods' rose leaf


Notes: Woods' Rose is listed on the Garden 2009 census. Eloise Butler first recorded planting it on Oct. 5, 1913 with plants received from Kelsey's Nursery in North Carolina. In Oct. 1920 she got 2 from Andrews' Nursery in Bolder Colorado under the name of Rosa fendleri - a name once proposed as a separate species but no longer accepted as such. Only the Smooth Rose, R. blanda, is indigenous to the Garden area.

In Minnesota Woods' Rose is found in most counties in the northern third of the state and several in the southern part of the state. In North America it is considered the most common and variable of the wild roses in central and western North America. It ranges in the U. S. from Wisconsin and Iowa westward to the Rocky Mountains, Colorado excepted. In Canada it is found in most provinces except those on the coasts and the far north. Five species of wild rose are recognized as being native to Minnesota, R. acicularlis, R. blanda, R. arkansana, R. woodsii and a cross between R. woodsii and R. blanda known as Rosa ×dulcissima Lunell (pro sp.) [blanda × woodsii]

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.