Multiflora rose

Encyclopedia Article

Multiflora rose                      Rosa multiflora L.

Family:  Rosaceae (Rose family)
Life cycle:  Perennial, reproducing by seed and rooting of tips of canes that touch the ground (layering).
Native status: Introduced as ornamental, living fence; still used as rootstock for cultivated rose varieties.
Habitat:   Pastures, prairies, openings in wooded areas

General description:   Perennial shrub with arching canes reaching heights of 5 to 10 ft.  Leaves pinnately compound with five to eleven toothed leaflets, stipule at base of petiole resembles a fringe of hairs.  Flowers are white, ½ - ¾ in wide and produced in early June.  Fruit are red, ¼ in in diameter and often remain on canes throughout winter.

Key ID traits:  The fringed stipule on the base of the leaf petioles distinguishes multiflora rose from other native Rosa species.

Similar species:   The wild prairie rose (Rosa pranticola) is the state flower of Iowa.  It is much smaller than multiflora rose (less than 2 ft fall) and lacks the hairy stipules. Flowers of wild rose usually are pink compared to the white flowers of multiflora rose.

Miscellaneous:   Multiflora rose was introduced to the US for use as wildlife cover and planting as living fences.  Rose rosette disease has reduced the severity of infestations in the state, but usually only affects plants in full sun.  It is believed to be caused by a virus, it causes formation of witch’s brooms and red stems and foliage. The disease also infects cultivated varieties, so there has been little effort to develop it as a biological control agent.

Multiflora rose plants are found in open sun or on edges and openings of wooded areas.

Leaves are pinnately compound with 5 to 11 leaflets with dentate margins.


The hairy stipule at the base of the leaf petiole is the simplest way to differentiate MFR from other wild roses.  Other roses have winged stipules

pinnately compound leaves and five-petaled flowers
MFR flowers have five white petals, plants usually flower in late May or early June.

MFR thorns curve backward towards the crown, this makes it difficult to get detached from a plant once entangled.


Rose rosette disease causes red stems and foliage, another symptom is witches broom.