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Dog rose (Rosa canina)

One of the most beautiful signs of approaching summer is the sight of the dog rose beginning to flower. In autumn bright red hips can be seen as flashes of colour among the leafless stems of this scrambling shrub.

Common name: dog rose

Binomial name: Rosa canina

Family: Rosaceae

What does dog rose look like?

A thorny climber, dog rose has curved spines to gain a purchase as it weaves in between other shrubs and uses them to support its growth.

Flowers: large pink or white five petalled flowers with a faint sweet smell.

Fruit: striking red oval shaped hips (15-20 mm) form in small clusters. Each hip contains many seeds.

Leaves: made up of 2-3 smaller leaflets. Leaf buds can be affected by a gall known as robin's pincushion. This looks like a ball of fibrous red threads they are caused by a gall wasp.

Not to be confused with...

There are many species of wild rose found in the UK which are all very similar and difficult to identify. Roses are also commonly planted in gardens and some of these have escaped into the wild. One of these similar species is Rosa rugosa which flowers earlier than dog rose.

Where and when to find dog rose

Where: found in hedgerows, woodland edges and on scrubland. Dog rose is more commonly found in the south of the UK but can be found all over, especially in heavy soils.

When: best seen in flower in May and June with fruit ripening around September and October.

Value to wildlife

  • Dog rose flowers are an important nectar source for insects.
  • The fruits are a food source for birds such as blackbirds, redwings and waxwings.

Uses and folklore

  • Rose hips are high in vitamin C and were traditionally used to make syrups taken to boost levels.
  • The hairs inside the hips are an irritant extracted to make an itching powder