A high-climbing, trailing or leaning woody vine. In the open, a dense shrub.
Leaves alternate, feather-compound, leaflets commonly 3 on old stems, on new stems 3 or 5; leaflets lance- to egg-shaped, toothed, tip pointed, lateral leaflets short-stemmed, terminal leaflet long-stemmed. Stipules at leaf bases have smooth margins.
Twigs flexible, smooth, green or reddish, thorns straw-colored or pale brown, ¼ inch long, often in pairs at the nodes.
Bark on older stems grayish-brown with scattered thorns.
Flowers late May-June, many-flowered clusters on new stems, large, to 3¼ inches wide, heavily perfumed; petals 5, pink (rarely white); stamens numerous.
Fruits September, red “hips,” about 3/8 inch long, fleshy, round to broadest above the middle, usually with gland-tipped hairs.
Similar species: Invasive, nonnative multiflora rose (R. multiflora) has comblike hairs on the stipules at the leaf bases, smaller flowers, and more leaflets per compound leaf.
Height: to 4 feet, grown in the open; stem length: 6-15.
Habitat and conservation:
This native rose occurs in moist ground and rocky places along streams and spring branches, moist thickets, low open woodland, pastures, prairie thickets, clearings, fencerows and along roadsides. Although it is called "prairie rose," "climbing rose" is more appropriate, as it is more often found climbing into tall bushes and low trees near woodlands.
Distribution in Missouri:
Showy, fragrant flowers, pretty fruits and deep rose-red autumn foliage make this a good native choice for landscaping. It can be used as an informal hedge or barrier, or in shrub borders, rose gardens and naturalized thickets. Good as a cut flower. Resists disease better than hybrid roses.
Deer browse the twigs and fruit, and a variety of songbirds, as well as greater prairie-chicken, ruffed grouse and quail, eat the fruits. When it forms dense thickets, prairie rose makes good cover for small birds and mammals. Several insects visit the flowers; others eat the leaves.