Because the landscape had been neglected for almost a decade, the yard of my former home was full of horticultural surprises when we first moved in: daffodils that started blooming again once dug and divided, irises that smelled like grape lollipops, bulbs that sent up leaves in spring but didn’t bloom until fall (colchicums) and a wild rose without thorns.For years I couldn’t decide whether it was Rosa virginiana or Rosa caroliniana. Going by the pictures, it could have been either. The only thing that tripped me up was the descriptions always mentioned thorns, and I could never find thorns on this rose. (Rose thorns are actually prickles, because they are derived from epidermis tissue, but I’ll stick with thorns to keep it simple.) At times I wondered if it was actually a swamp rose (Rosa palustris), because the soil where it grew was rather damp. It wasn’t until recently that I googled thornless native rose and came up with smooth rose, Rosa blanda. Of course, identifying a native plant by a photo alone can often lead one astray. If I had looked at the stipules, I would have been more certain that it was not Virginia rose, whose stipules are widest at the top. The location of glands can also help in identification. R. caroliniana has “lots of bristles on its leaf petioles” (the “stem” of a leaf) and the smooth rose doesn’t. But the lack of thorns is the clincher. The swamp rose has “pairs of stout, downwardly curving spines that grace each node of the stem,” according to the New England Wildflower Society. The Carolina rose has “slender, straight prickles at the nodes of the stems.” The University of Connecticut lists “paired prickles” as an identifying feature of the Virginia rose. Yet I really had to search the smooth roses growing in the bird sanctuary to find even one thorn (which really does look like a mere prickle) to photograph above.
I am glad to have finally figured out the correct identity of my sweet, wild rose. Perhaps now I can learn a bit more about it.
Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogosphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”