Members of this class are wild roses – but wild roses of a special kind. Species roses originate with plants or cuttings that are collected from the wild, but typically they come from exceptionally vigorous and handsome specimens.
The special strength of the species roses is their wildness. These are roses that have had to take care of themselves. If you choose species roses adapted to your climate and soil, they will take care of themselves in your garden, too.
Appreciating species roses require a shift in perspective: you must set aside the preconception that says that beautiful roses must look like the ones you see at the florist. Species roses commonly bear simple, so-called single flowers, with just five petals, and these blossoms most often measure no more than 1 or 2 in (2.5 to 5.1 cm) in diameter. Most often, they bloom just once a season. Species roses tend to make expansive shrubs, which means they are best reserved for informal plantings. Within such a setting, though, they offer not only unrivaled hardness but also a subtle, understated beauty matched by few man-made hybrids.
- ‘Cherokee Rose’ (Introduced – 1759)
- Though of foreign origin, this rose is as much at home throughout the southeastern United States as were the people whose name it inherited. The Cherokee rose is almost evergreen in the warmer part of its range, and the glossy, dark green leaves are unusual in that each one has three leaflets, rather than the five or seven common among most roses. It flowers early, in April or May, bearing fragrant, single, white flowers 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 in (6.5-9.0cm) across, with showy yellow stamens. These blossoms are succeeded by large, decorative red hips.
- ‘Memorial Rose’ (Introduced – 1891)
- The hardiness, vigorous growth, and sweet fragrance of Rosa wichuraiana made it a favorite cemetery planting, where it survived with only intermittent care. As a ground cover for gravesites, it won the name memorial rose; it has also been used as a climbing rose and is a parent of many fine hybrid climbers.
The pyramid-shaped clusters of white flowers open as late as August; each 1 1/2 – 2 in (3.8-5.1cm) blossom has prominent yellow stamens and exudes a fruity fragrance. These are followed by small, ovoid, dark red hips. The glossy, dark green foliage can be almost evergreen in mild winters. The canes are moderately thorny, and when allowed to sprawl, they root where the tips touch the ground, giving rise to new plants; this makes R. wichuraiana the most effective ground cover rose.
- ‘Prairie Rose’ (Introduced – 1810)
- Ranging naturally from Ontario to Florida and Texas, this tough pioneer makes an excellent stabilizer for a sunny bank, and its tolerance for poor, dry soils makes it an outstanding highway planting. It’s long canes can be trained up a trellis or pillar, but they look best when allowed to grow into a large shrub in a meadow or as a specimen at the edge of a substantial lawn. The single pink flowers appear later than those of other species roses, and the hips and vivid autumn foliage that follow make this an outstanding shrub for the landscape.
- ‘Red-leafed Rose’ (Introduced – prior to 1830)
- Blooming in late spring, Rosa glaucous produces single, 1 1/2 in ( 4cm ), clear pink flowers with white eyes. Though not long-lasting, they produce attractive oval red hips that show up well against the colorful foliage, which is copper to purplish in sunny sites, silvery green in shade. The foliage color, enhanced by the purple hue of the young canes, makes this rose an unusual and eye-catching addition to a mixed border. Tough and hardy, this nearly thornless shrub performs particularly well in cold-climate gardens.
- ‘Rosa Banksia Banksia’ Roses (Introduced – 1807)
- The double white flowers of R. banksia banksia appear in profusion in spring and continue for up to 6 weeks. The flowers cover the plant during this period. Each blossom is less than 1 inch across, pure white, and extremely fragrant with the scent of violets. Leaves are long, light green, and shiny, and the canes are nearly thornless.
Where it is hardy, this rose is a fast, vigorous grower and is quite long-lived. This rose grows well on a tree, wall, or trellis but may become rampant where the growth is not controlled. The related variety R. banksia lutea bears pale to deep yellow double flowers and is slightly hardier and less fragrant. Both varieties are known as the Lady Banks’ Rose.
- ‘Rosa Eglanteria’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1551)
- R. gelateria is commonly called the sweetbrier or eglantine rose. Its single blush pink flowers are 2 inches across, with petals surrounding golden stamens. They appear singly or in small clusters in late spring. Bright red hips follow the flowers. The leaves are tough and dark green and are distinctly apple scented while flowers are sweetly fragrant. Canes bear abundant prickles.
This is a large, vigorous rose with a rambling habit. This rose has become naturalized in North America and can be found growing in pastures. In the garden, plants should be heavily pruned to contain them and to encourage new growth, which is especially fragrant.
- ‘Rosa Foetida’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1542)
- Single, bright yellow flowers are 2 to 2 1/2 inches across and bloom once a year on 10-foot plants. The blooms have an almost sickening sweet odor. This rose was the basis of yellow coloring in modern roses, and, unfortunately, is very prone to black spot.
- ‘Rosa Foetida Bicolor’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1590)
- This wild rose also goes by the name’ Austrian Copper’. It is a sport of the yellow species R. foetida. It’s 2- to 3-inch flowers are orange to coppery red on the upper surface with a yellow reverse. Occasionally a branch spontaneously reverts to the species, resulting in both yellow and copper-colored flowers on the same bush. Foliage is small, neat, and light green; the prickly canes are chestnut brown.
Plants typically grow 4 to 5 feet with arching canes but can sometimes reach 8 feet. They usually require little pruning to maintain their attractive form. The plants are effective in beds or borders for a colorful spring flower display but should be kept apart from soft, pastel flowers, which do not blend well with the bold tones of this variety. This rose is hardy but susceptible to black spot.
- ‘Rosa Foetida Persian’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1837)
- This rose is similar in all respects to R. foetida except that its flowers are double. This rose is often called the Persian rose.
- ‘Rosa Hugonis’ Roses (Introduced – 1899)
- Also called ‘Father Hugo’s Rose’, this rose is one of the first to bloom in late spring. Its masses of single, 2 1/2-inch flowers are sunny yellow; blooming on drooping branches over small, dark green leaves. Because of its 6- to 10-foot height, this rose is best grown as a climber.
- ‘Rosa Macrantha’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1832)
- Single, 2- to 3-inch, blush pink flowers bloom once a year and are followed by 3/4-inch, round, dull red hips. Plants grow to 10 feet in height and have upright arching canes as well as canes that grow along the ground; both are thickly covered with blue-green leaves.
- ‘Rosa Moyesii’ Roses (Introduced – 1894)
- Single flowers vary in color from light pink to deep rose and deep blood red. They are 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches across and are borne singly or in pairs. Flowers bloom once a year, followed by oblong hips that are 2 to 2 1/2 inches long and deep orange-red. The 10-foot-high, arching plants have fine, fernlike foliage. Although this rose was discovered in 1894, it is believed to be of ancient origin.
- ‘Rosa Multiflora’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1810)
- Although usually grown as an understock, this rose is sometimes cultivated for its dense, hedge like growth. Indeed, its growth is so rampant that the planting of this rose is outlawed in some areas. The 3/4-inch white flowers bloom once a year in pyramidal clusters.
- ‘Rosa Pendulina’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1683)
- Also known as the ‘Alpine Rose’, this rose has single, 2-inch, pink flowers that bloom singly or in small clusters once a year. The red hips are oblong or oval and have an elongated neck. Plants grow 3 feet tall.
- ‘Rosa Roxburghii’ Roses (Introduced – prior to 1814)
- Known also as the ‘Chestnut Rose’, this rose has gray branches with shredding bark and prickly flower buds that look like a chestnut burr. The double, flat flowers are medium lilac pink and 2 to 2 1/2 inches across. Hips are rounded and 1 to 1 1/2 inches across. Plants grow to 6 feet tall, and bloom recurrently throughout the summer.
- ‘Rosa Rugosa Alba’ Roses (Introduced – 1870)
- A color sport of R. rugosa, R. rugosa alba produces large single white flowers throughout the summer. Usually borne in clusters, each bloom is 2 1/2 to 4 inches across and bears a strong clove-like fragrance. The flowers are followed by huge orange-red hips that stand out beautifully against the foliage, which turns from bright green to yellow in the fall. Another rugosa sport, R. rugosa rubra, bears magenta-purple flowers and red hips.
This vigorous and spreading rose may outgrow its space unless controlled. This rose is useful in shrub borders, as a hedge, or as a specimen shrub. An easy-to-grow rose, this rose thrives in sandy soil, is an excellent choice for seaside gardens, and is extremely hardy and resistant to diseases and insects.
- ‘Scotch Rose’ (Introduced – prior to 1600)
- As the common name suggests, this rose is a native of Scotland, where it is often found growing wild on sandy banks. In mid to late spring, it bears 2 1/2 in (6.5cm) cream or white, single blossoms, and in general, it is an extremely tough plant that suckers freely when grown on its own roots. This dense, thicket-like growth and the bristling armament of sharp, needlelike bristles make the Scotch rose outstanding material for a low-care barrier hedge or a tall, informal ground cover. Many hybrid roses have been bred from Rosa spin sis sima; the best of these maintain its toughness but combine it with more mannerly growth. The Scotch rose’s hips are distinctive, small, and maroon-black.
- ‘Shining Rose’ (Introduced – 1807)
- Rosa nitida has earned its place in cold-climate gardens with its three seasons of a display. In early summer, it bears fragrant, brilliant pink flowers. Then in fall, the glossy, narrow leaflets (which give this rose its name) turn a beautiful scarlet. Later, the bright red hips and reddish brown prickles provide winter interest.
Like most of the species roses, R. nitida is not a spectacular shrub, but instead one of the quiet charms. It suckers readily, gradually forming a thicket of slender, reddish stems. Because of this spreading habit, R. nitida makes an excellent and self-sufficient ground cover for the outskirts of a garden -one that flourishes even in partial shade and poor soils.
- ‘Sierra Nevada Rose’ (Introduced – 1891)
- Rosa woodsii ranges over a wide area of central and western North America and has evolved a number of local variations. The form named fendleri, the one most often seen in gardens, is slightly taller than its relatives and has a more slender shape. The leaves are grayish green, and the flowers it bears in early summer are fragrant and lilac-pink with cream-colored stamens. These give rise to round, shiny, orange-red hips that cling to the canes well into winter. This is an excellent shrub for areas that have dry climates and cold winters.
- ‘Swamp Rose’ (Introduced – 1824)
- Few roses tolerate poorly drained soils; this shrub thrives on them. This makes the swamp rose a prize for gardeners in search of a shrub for a low-lying damp spot. Yet this rose need not be confined only to wet situations, for it also flourishes on ordinary, well-drained garden soils. In fact, the swamp rose, with its graceful, semi-weeping form, is an asset to any landscape. It’s nearly thornless canes bear fragrant, vivid pink, double flowers amid narrow, willow like leaves. More gardeners should consider this easy, lovely shrub for gracing the edges of their ponds or streams.
- ‘Virginia Rose’ (Introduced – prior to 1807)
- Despite its name, the Virginia rose grows wild far to the north and south of that state, for it ranges naturally from Newfoundland south to Alabama and west to Missouri. Wherever it grows, this rose offers year-round color: bronzy new foliage in spring; bright cerise-pink flowers with pale centers in midsummer; bright red hips and leaves that turn shades of red, yellow, and orange in fall; and arching red canes in the dead of winter. Such a tough, hardy shrub definitely deserves a spot somewhere in the garden, although it is especially useful for naturalized areas or slopes where few other roses would put on such a grand four-season display of color.
- ‘Wingthorn Rose’ (Introduced – 1890)
- Everything about this rose is extraordinary. The rule for roses is that petals are borne in multiples of five, yet the wingthorn rose’s small white blossoms have just four. Most gardeners, in any case, regard this rose’s flowers as insignificant; instead they cultivate the shrub for the spectacular thorns, which may measure an inch (2.5cm) from the base and which are scarlet-colored and translucent on young canes. For the best display, the wingthorn rose should be cut back hard in spring to encourage abundant new growth. When less severely pruned, it can serve as a formidable barrier hedge. The fernlike foliage makes this an attractive shrub, and when set where the sun can backlight the jewel-like thorns, the effect can be magnificent.
- ‘Yellow Lady Banks Rose’ (Introduced – 1824)
- Blooming in early to late spring, depending on the climate, this rambler produces sprays of clear yellow, double flowers, each 1 in (2.5cm) across. Although this rose is not hardy where winter temperatures drop below 10°F (-12°C), its disease resistance, thornless canes, and free-flowering habit make it popular in milder climates. In colder regions, this rose makes an excellent container plant if moved to a sheltered area in winter.
There is also a white form of this species, Rosa banksia (sometimes listed as R. banksia alba-plena), whose blossoms offer a stronger, violet-scented perfume.