Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?

The rose: a long-time symbolization of love and passion. A way to tell a romantic message without using words.

Each colored rose holds a different meaning, such as red for enduring passion; white for humility and innocence; yellow for friendship and joy; pink for gratitude, appreciation and admiration; and orange for enthusiasm and desire.

But what about the multiflora rose, a shrub with arching canes, covered in thorns with white flowers that produce small red fruits?


Despite its beauty and white color symbolizing humility and innocence, this rose is not one you’d give a loved one on Valentine’s Day.

The multiflora rose is an invasive species that rapidly grows into a dense thicket that invades pastures and crowds out native species.

Originally from eastern Asia, the multiflora rose was brought to the U.S. in the 1860s to serve as ornamental garden plant and rose root stock for rose breeding programs. In the 1930s, the USDA and the Soil Conservation Service recommended the widespread planting of the rose in the Midwest and northeastern states for erosion control programs, wildlife habitat enhancement programs and as a natural barrier, or “living fence,” to roaming farm animals.

multiflora map
Map of multiflora U.S. extension. Courtesy of invasive.org. 

Throughout the 1960s, conservationists started to see the dangers of the rose and advised against planting it. States did not listen to this warning as the plant served as a way to feed certain wildlife species and stop cars from crashing into medians due to the great density of the thickets.

Now classified as an exotic invasive species, the multiflora rose hits eight invasive characteristics:

  1. Extensive seed production and viability. Individual plants can produce up to 500,000 seeds a year and remain viable in soil for 10 to 20 years.
  2. Vectors. Seeds are dispersed widely by birds into surrounding areas.
  3. The plant can self-fertilize, and one can create a colony of reproducing plants.
  4. Vegetative reproduction. Broken canes can produce more plants.
  5. No predators.
  6. Leaves sprout earlier in the year and last longer than most native plants.
  7. Can grow in sun or shade.
  8. Flowers sprout from May to June and fruits from August until winter months.

Removing multiflora shrubs can be done in a number of ways. The plant can be pulled out, but this may be difficult due to its thorns. Herbicides can be applied in July, August and up to mid-September for greatest chemical control.

So, if you want to give your significant other a rose but not spend any money, the multiflora rose is not the way to go. Try a Carolina rose, prairie rose or swamp rose instead.


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