What's In Bloom?
June 4, 2003
The wild multiflora roses are in bloom almost everywhere. Here are some shots of an empty area filled with small trees, shrubs and lots of R. multiflora. For the most part, I don't want much to do with this rose. It grows everywhere and is a lot of work to remove. It does have a wonderful scent and if it's on someone else's property I enjoy the flowers for a few weeks each year.
On the other hand, I found this pink sport or natural hybrid along the woods near my office. I'm trying to root cuttings since it's so pretty.
I took a stem from the rose and put it on the scanner for these two:
What Authors Say
David Austin, the breader of the so-called "English Roses" has this to say about R. Multiflora (in Shrub Roses and Climbing Roses, Antique Collectors Club, 1993)
"A vigorous Climber or shrub sometimes used as a root stock in this country (England), but more often on the Continent. For this reason it is frequently found surviving in the gardens, long after the garden rose which was budded on to it has died away. However, this is not to say it is not a useful garden plant, although it is perhaps a little too stiff in growth as a Climber, and there are better Species. It has considerable value for large-scale planting in the municipal landscapes, as it grows very vigorously, forming a great mass of tall growth. For this purpose it should be grown from seed. It bears tight clusters of small, 1-in. creamy-white flowers with golden stamens in late June and early July. These have a strong fruity fragrance which carries extensively. There are small, oval, red hips in autumn. Its dimensions as a shrub are 7ft. high by 10ft. across; as a Climber it will grow considerably taller, and may reach 20ft. or more in a tree. It was one of the ancestors of the Multiflora Ramblers and the Polyantha Pompon Roses, eventually influencing the Florabundas. It is thus one of the most important ancestors of our Modern Roses. A native of North China, Korea and Japan. Known to have been in Britain before 1869."
Graham Stuart Thomas
In The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book (Sagapress, 1994) we find this description:
"Recorded by Plukenet in 1696 and intruduced in 1862, this species has had a profound influence on garden roses in many ways. Though I had known it as a stock for nursery budding for many years, my first real acquaintance with it as a garden plant was at Nymans, Sussex, where it had been allowed to grow naturally, arching its smooth, long stems over the path, and bearing freely the narrow somewhat pubescent leaves with, usually 9 leaflets and pyramid-shaped trusses of tiny blooms which are so well known throughout the old Rambler group of roses, of which it was the main ancestor. The flowers are single, creamy fading to white, with bright yellow stamens and a powerful fruity fragrance, which is carried freely in the air. It can best be described as an arching shrub, although its shoots will ramble into trees as high as 20 feet. Normally it makes a dense thicket of interlacing lax shoots, much like a blackberry. So dense is it, indeed, that when planted closely as a hedge it is rabbit-proof, and so thickly do its stems grow that it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and also in Britain as a roadside plant, for its resilient thicket can hold a car which runs off the road. What a use for a rose! On the other hand, how lucky we are to be able to provide so pretty and sweet a shrub for such a use. It is claimed in America that it is "horse high, bull strong and goat tight," and Roy Shepherd records that over five hundren miles have been planted in Ohio alone. It is not a greedy shrub; it is a haven for wild life, prevents erosion, holds embankments, and serves as a windbreak or snow-fence."
"After the clusters of flowers are over in July, the heps develop, reaching maturity in late summer, and lasting through the autumn into winter. They are about the size of a small pea, bright red, very dainty, and most useful for cutting. The long arching sprays may be cut in flower or fruit without damaging the plant, just as one may cut any rambler, thus encouraging fresh strong growth which will flower in later years. There are few easier roses for growing in semi-wild parts of the garden, and certainly nothing cheaper. If interspersed with something more flamboyant, like Rosa 'Highdownensis' or R. moyesii, a hedge of interest for a very long period will be achieved, with crops of flowers and fruit of the respective plants alternating through summer and autumn."
"It is very often seen in gardens without the owner having any idea of its identity, except that they know it is an understock which has remained at the expense of its scion; and of course it is utterly unsuited for a rose bed. The forms known as Rose multiflora japonica (prickly) and R. m. 'Simplex' (prickle-less) are those used most often as understocks for budding, and differ but little from a horticultural point of view; either will make a charming plant, but both are rather small-flowered. Another understock, 'Cress and Danieli', is undoubtedly the best of all forms to grow for its beauty. The flowers, trusses, and foliage are all of a high order. It was raised in the United States."
Michael A. Dirr
Austin and Thomas, of course, are rose people. How bad can any rose be? On the other hand, Michael Dirr is a more general horticulturalist. He has a little different opinion of R. multiflora in his well respected, 1,187 page Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Fifth Edition, Stipes Publishing, 1998).
Under the heading "Habit" he says, "A fountain with long, slender, recurving branches; eventually forming an impenetrable tangle of brush suitable only for burning." About its growth rate he says, "fast; too fast for most farmers who have this species in their fields." His description for "Culture" is, "Same as described under R. rugosa although this species is more invasive; tolerates dry heavy soils very well."
He goes on with an entry for "Landscape Value" of "None in the residential landscape; has received a lot of attention for conservation purposes; makes a good place for all the "critters" to hide, yet can be a real nuisance for the birds deposit the seeds in fence rows and open areas, and soon one has a jungle; use this species with the knowledge that none of your gardening friends in the immediate vicinity will ever speak to you again." Finally, he gives the following "Additional Notes." "Utilized as an understock for budding the highly domesticated selections. Another species that appears resistant to black-spot and the typical rose diseases. I cannot overemphasize the invasive and greedy nature of this species. Have observed entire pastures/fields invaded and captured by the plant."