Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Crane, M. F. 1990. Rosa acicularis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of prickly rose is Rosa
acicularis Lindl. . Prickly rose hybridizes with smooth wild rose
(R. blanda), Nootka rose (R. nutkana), prairie wild rose (R. arkansana),
and Wood's rose (R. woodsii) [28,84,87]. Two subspecies of prickly rose
are recognized :
Rosa acicularis subsp. acicularis
Rosa acicularis subsp. sayi
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Prickly rose is circumpolar in the boreal forest region. It grows from
Alaska to Quebec and New England . On the West Coast, its range
extends as far south as British Columbia. It is found in Montana,
Wyoming, Colorado, and northern New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains, and
in North and South Dakota in the northern Great Plains [28,32,37,72].
It grows in the Lake States of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, with
outlying populations as far south as Iowa and northwestern Illinois
Subspecies acicularis is primarily Eurasian but extends into Alaska;
subspecies sayi is American [28,69,72,87].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
AK CO CT IL IA ME MA MI MN MT
NH NM VT WY AB BC MB ON PQ SK
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
18 Paper birch
21 Eastern white pine
26 Sugar maple - basswood
107 White spruce
201 White spruce
202 White spruce - paper birch
203 Balsam poplar
204 Black spruce
206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
210 Interior Douglas-fir
218 Lodgepole pine
219 Limber pine
227 Western redcedar - western hemlock
237 Interior ponderosa pine
251 White spruce - aspen
252 Paper birch
253 Black spruce - white spruce
254 Black spruce - paper birch
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Prickly rose is a characteristic species of boreal forests under white
spruce (Picea glauca) and relatively open black spruce (P. mariana). It
is very common in northern hardwood forests composed of paper birch
(Betula papyrifera), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), and
cottonwood (Populus spp.), and in transitional zones between birch and
spruce forest . It is less frequent in closed black spruce forests
At treeline in northern Alaska it is found with willows (Salix spp.),
alder (Alnus spp.), highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule), and herbs .
In British Columbia it is characteristic of boreal white spruce and
black spruce stands and also subboreal spruce (Picea glauca x
engelmannii) stands [42,61].
From Alaska south through Alberta into northern Montana, prickly rose is
common in quaking aspen parkland and extends into grasslands [3,16,46].
It also grows in balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), white spruce, and
lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) stands in Alberta  and in black
cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) groves in northern Montana . It
grows in Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), subalpine fir (Abies
lasiocarpa), lodgepole pine, and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
stands in the northern Rocky Mountains [15,63,70], and with ponderosa
pine (Pinus ponderosa) and quaking aspen in the Bighorn Mountains of
Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota [39,40,71]. In southern
Wyoming, it is only found with ponderosa pine .
Classifications listing prickly rose as an indicator or plant community
dominant are presented below:
Forest community types of west-central Alberta in relation to selected
environmental factors 
Classification, description, and dynamics of plant communities after
fire in the taiga of interior Alaska 
Ecosystem classification and interpretation of the sub-boreal spruce
zone, Prince Rupert Forest Region, British Columbia 
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Prickly rose is an important food source for grouse, snowshoe hares, and
microtine rodents . In Alaska, snowshoe hares browse on prickly
rose all year, but use is particularly heavy in summer [82,92]. In
Colorado, prickly rose is an important food item for mule deer which eat
twigs and foliage in summer and fall [88,89]. In Montana, browsing by
mule deer is greatest in fall and winter . White-tailed deer browse
on wild roses (Rosa spp.) as do pronghorn, elk, moose, and mountain
sheep [49,59]. Black bear and grizzly bear eat prickly rose hips
(fruits) in fall [35,48]. Wild rose hips are eaten by songbirds and
small mammals; upland gamebirds eat buds as well as hips. Larger
fur-bearing mammals such as bears, rabbits, and beaver eat hips, stems,
and foliage of roses .
Prickly rose is a preferred food of snowshoe hares in Alaska [58,92].
It is also one of the preferred foods of mule deer in Colorado [88,89].
In Montana, palatability of prickly rose browse is estimated as good for
pronghorn; fair for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, cattle, and
sheep; and poor for horses . Wild rose hips are probably not as
palatable to birds as other fruits and so remain on the shrubs,
providing an important winter resource .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Hips of prickly rose are high in vitamin A and are a winter source
of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) [33,84,90]. Rose hips are highly
digestible and moderately high in crude protein. Wild rose is excellent
summer browse for big game and livestock, but its protein content
decreases once leaves are shed . In Montana the energy and protein
values of prickly rose are estimated to be poor . Browse samples
from Northwest Territories had an ash content of 4.7 percent .
COVER VALUE :
Thickets of wild rose provide excellent nesting sites and protective
cover for birds, as well as shelter for small mammals [49,74]. In
Montana, prickly rose is estimated to provide good thermal and feeding
cover for mule deer and white-tailed deer and fair cover for elk, upland
game birds, and small birds and mammals .
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Prickly rose is recommended for revegetation on moist to wet sites in
Alaska and Alberta . It is a good choice for erosion control,
especially since the prickly stems may discourage overbrowsing [74,90].
It is tolerant of acidic situations, is adapted to a wide range of soil
textures and moisture regimes, rapidly covers an area, and is moderately
tolerant of crude oil . It has shown good drought tolerance on
amended oil sand tailings in Alberta and competes effectively with
seeded grasses [90,95]. In Montana, prickly rose's erosion control
potential, based on biomass, moderately aggressive growth, and
persistence, is rated as medium. Its short-term revegetation potential
is low, but long-term revegetation potential is medium .
Achenes of prickly rose need both warm and cold stratification for
germination; treatment details are described in various papers. Prickly
rose can be successfully started from rhizome, softwood, and hardwood
cuttings. Cuttings that include both rhizome and stem tissue give the
best results . Results of one study showed that over 90 percent of
prickly rose rhizome cuttings produced shoots at temperatures of 41, 59,
and 77 degrees F (5, 15, and 25 degrees C). The number of days before
shoot appearance increased as the temperature decreased .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Prickly rose bushes make attractive ornamentals but need careful pruning
. In Alaska, prickly rose flowers are a major source of nectar for
bees kept by beekeepers . Juice is extracted from the hips by
boiling and used to make jellies and syrups. Pulp from the hips, after
seeds and skins are removed, is used to make jams, marmalades, and
catsup [33,84]. Other juice or fruit is sometimes added for flavoring.
Rose hips may be preserved by drying and then ground into a powder that
may be added to baked goods . Green hips can be peeled and cooked,
and young shoots have been eaten as a potherb. Leaves, flowers, and
buds can be used to make tea; teas made from flowers and buds may
relieve diarrhea [33,34,51]. Flower petals are also sometimes eaten raw
and may be used for perfume [34,33]. Buds and flowers can be the basis
for an eyewash .
Native Americans made medicinal tea from wild roses which was used as a
remedy for diarrhea and stomach maladies. They sometimes smoked the
inner bark. Crow Indians used a solution made by boiling rose roots in
a compress to reduce swelling. The same solution was drunk for mouth
bleeding and gargled as a remedy for tonsillitis and sore throats; vapor
from this solution was inhaled for nose bleeding . Evidently,
several tribes thought that rose hips would produce itching, although
they were sometimes used as emergency food [33,34]. Some tribes
believed wild rose could keep bad spirits away .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Prickly rose will sprout from the rhizomes if cut . Data from
shelterwood and clearcutting in Alaskan white spruce indicates that
although prickly rose cover is initially reduced by management
practices, it recovers rapidly. On these sites it became a dominant,
reaching or exceeding prelogging cover and frequency values, within 2
years. There was less of an initial reduction following shelterwood
cuttings than clearcutting . In Colorado prickly rose frequency
increases following logging .
A mixture of picloram and 2,4-D effectively controlled prickly rose
regrowth following conversion of aspen parkland in Saskatchewan to
seeded grasses. A mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T was less successful at
controlling prickly rose and a mixture of 2,4-D with dicamba was
Prickly rose is susceptible to leaf rusts, leaf spots, powdery mildew,
stem canker, and crown gall . Prickly rose foliage is very
sensitive to fumigation by sulfur dioxide .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Prickly rose plants are quite variable in morphological details
including pubescence, glandularity, and fruit shape . Prickly rose
is a deciduous shrub about 4 feet (1.2 m) in height with many fine roots
in the top 8 inches (20 cm) of soil. Deep roots may extend to 55 inches
(140 cm) . The main stems are usually covered with slender,
straight bristles or prickles. The alternate leaves are pinnately
compound with five to nine leaflets and conspicuous stipules [28,72].
The pink or rose-colored flowers have numerous stamens and are borne
singly on lateral branches. The globose, fleshy, red or orange-red hip
has 10 to 30 achenes. Each achene is 0.15 to 0.2 inch (3.8-5 mm) long
with stiff hairs along one side [28,37,72].
Information about subspecies (varieties) is summarized below [72,87]:
Subspecies (variety) acicularis is octoploid (2n = 56). It has
glandular pedicels and narrow sepals (less than 0.1 inch or 3 mm). Its
leaves have five leaflets.
Subspecies sayi (variety bourgeauiana) is hexaploid (2n = 42). Its
pedicels are glabrous and the sepals are wider than 0.1 inch (3 mm).
There are five to nine leaflets in each leaf.
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Prickly rose regenerates vegetatively by means of widespread rhizomes.
A single clone with 8 to 11 aboveground stems linked by a horizontal
rhizome can cover 11.95 to 23.92 square yards (10-20 sq m). Results of
an Alaskan study found rhizomes between 8 and 12 inches (20-30 cm) deep.
This was sufficient for the rhizomes to be in the mineral soil below
deep organic horizons . Since rhizomes sprout after fire and other
types of disturbance, prickly rose clones may live for hundreds of years
Prickly rose flowers and sets seed frequently in open communities and
infrequently under a canopy . Seed is dispersed by small mammals,
song birds, and grouse . Seeds exhibit deep dormancy and require
warm stratification for the initial stages of germination, followed by
cold stratification for germination to continue [10,17,54,90]. While
most seeds germinate following snowmelt the second spring after seed
set, germination of one seed crop may spread over several years .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Prickly rose is a characteristic species of boreal forests under white
spruce and relatively open black spruce. It is very common in northern
hardwood forests composed of paper birch (Betula papyrifera), aspen
(Populus tremuloides), and cottonwood (Populus spp.), and in
transitional zones between birch and spruce forest. It is less frequent
in closed black spruce forests .
In the northern Great Plains and Alberta, it is found on wooded
hillsides, along streambanks, and on rocky bluffs and ledges [28,72,90].
Near the Great Lakes, prickly rose is found on sandy and gravelly
shores, and sandy woodlands with jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and oak
(Quercus spp.). It also grows on rocky ridges and shores, in moist
thickets, in swamps, and in openings in conifer forests . Prickly
rose grows on active floodplains [26,54,76,81,90].
In Alaska, prickly rose is common with aspen in old burns and is found
in thickets, alongside roads, and in bogs .
Soil relationships: In interior Alaska and on the Saskatchewan and
MacKenzie river deltas, prickly rose does best on soils based on
alluvium that may be seasonally flooded. However, it does not do well
on peats or in basins with restricted drainage [18,20,57]. From
British Columbia to Manitoba prickly rose does well on a variety of soil
textures and soil moisture regimes and it has good drought tolerance
[14,64,90]. In Alberta, prickly rose does not seem to grow on the
poorest sites, although in Alaska it grows on gravels that are low in
nutrients and susceptible to rapid freezing and thawing [14,90]. In
British Columbia subboreal spruce stands, prickly rose is characteristic
of mesic and mesotrophic sites on both fine and coarse textured soils
[42,61]. A Minnesota report describes it as growing on sites that range
from poor and dry to moderate .
Elevation: Elevational ranges in some western regions are [14,19]:
feet meters feet meters
Alberta 1,650 500 6,550 2,000
Colorado 4,500 1,372 10,900 3,322
Montana 3,300 1,006 9,000 2,743
Wyoming 5,000 1,524 10,900 3,322
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Prickly rose is moderately shade tolerant . In Minnesota forests,
this is evident from reported frequencies of 71 to 100 percent in the
open and 1 to 40 percent under a canopy . Around Lake Michigan, it
is a seral dominant during succession on lake dunes . In northern
Montana rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) grasslands, patches of prickly
rose, serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), and snowberry
(Symphoricarpos spp.) appear to originate when rodents throw up bare
soil on which the shrubs may establish . Along the eastern slopes
of the Rocky Mountains, it invades on patches of mineral soil exposed by
disturbance and pioneers on gravel bars along rivers or after fire .
Along rivers in British Columbia and Alaska, it first establishes with
pioneering willows and replaces them after they are overtopped by
cottonwoods on exposed gravel and silt bars [26,76,78,81].
Following disturbance on black spruce sites, prickly rose may appear as
sprouts on the freshly disturbed or burned site. It can spread rapidly
by stem and root shoots and reaches greatest density during the tall
shrub-sapling stage or under seral aspen. It decreases as the canopy
closes [22,25,82]. In white spruce stands, prickly rose sprouts
following disturbance, becoming a seral dominant under various mixtures
of aspen, birch, lodgepole pine, and white spruce. Finally, it is an
understory dominant in the climax stand [22,54,61]. In British
Columbia's interior cedar-hemlock transitional subzone, it is found in
seral shrub communities with aspen, paper birch, and lodgepole pine
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
In New England, prickly rose blooms in mid-June . In northwest
Illinois, the normal bloom period is during the last 2 weeks in May, and
fruit is set by July . In Alaska, prickly rose blooms in June and
July, and hips turn red in August .
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Wild roses are moderately fire resistant . Prickly rose can sprout
from the base of fire-killed aerial stems or from rhizomes [55,56].
Because rhizomes are located in mineral soil, prickly rose is well
adapted for sprouting after fire . Although prickly rose recovery
following fire is primarily vegetative, roses germinate from on-site and
off-site seeds as well [1,36]. Prickly rose seeds are fire resistant,
and germination may be stimulated by fire [55,56,85].
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Clearcutting followed by slashburning was sufficiently severe to sharply
reduce prickly rose survivors in Alaskan white spruce stands. Since at
least some rhizomes in mineral soil survived, it was able to recover,
although more slowly than following clearcutting alone . Prickly
rose sprouts after fire in black spruce, but it is not competitive with
black spruce .
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Fire usually kills aboveground parts of prickly rose. Severe fires
that remove organic soil horizons kill shallow rhizomes or portions of
rhizomes, leaving alive only those rhizome portions growing in mineral
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Prickly rose sprouts following fire and may also establish seedlings
[1,25,77,85,90]. Rowe  has observed that depth of sprouting buds is
site-specific in sprouting species and may vary in different regions of
the continent. Prickly rose recovery from fire appears to vary by
region and site. In Alaska, prickly rose rhizomes grow in mineral soil,
and the plant is found on nearly all recently burned sites [10,45]. The
severity and timing of the fire and site factors appear to be very
important to prickly rose response in western Canada and the Rocky
Mountains [30,65,67]. In northeastern broadleaf forests, prickly rose
is not as fire tolerant as other associated shrubs. It recovers well
after light fires but is infrequent following more severe fires .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
Alaska and northwest Canada: In Alaskan black and white spruce stands,
prickly rose's habit of rooting in mineral soil allows it to survive
fires that consume all or most of the deep organic layers and to
flourish in early succession [11,25]. Following early summer wildfires
in black spruce stands ranging in age from 50 to 125 years and in aspen
woodlands, prickly rose responded rapidly and vigorously, greatly
increasing its cover over prefire values [82,91]. After fires which do
not burn to mineral soil in Alaskan spruce forests, it sprouts but may
not be as vigorous . In Alaska's taiga, repeated fires at lower
elevations may lead to meadows dominated by bluejoint reedgrass
(Calamagrostis canadensis), sedges (Carex spp.), and prickly rose .
In northern British Columbia, frequent fires or repeated burning can
convert white spruce and aspen forests on valley slopes to shrub
communities which include prickly rose as a dominant .
Western Canada and Rocky Mountain States: In the sub-boreal spruce zone
of British Columbia prickly rose increases in abundance following fire
on moist sites but decreases on drier sites . Prickly rose was a
dominant in some British Columbia and Alberta subalpine fir and
Engelmann spruce stands 8 years after fire . It sprouted promptly
on moist sites in a dry Douglas-fir stand in Montana following a
wildfire . On Montana rough fescue grassland, prickly rose did not
regain its prefire dominance until the second year following a fall fire
. In spring following a fall grassland fire in Saskatchewan,
substantial patches of prickly rose showed no sign of sprouting and were
apparently killed . Annual spring burning over a 24-year period
severely reduced the frequency and cover of prickly rose in Alberta
aspen parkland .
Great Lakes Region: In the Great Lakes region, prickly rose is less
frequent on severely burned sites than on lightly burned sites although
its degree of dominance is similar for burned and unburned sites .
Results from a study of both spring and summer wildfires in Minnesota
mixed conifer-hardwood stands showed reduced frequency for prickly rose.
Most postfire plants were sprouts, but some plants apparently started
from seed . However, in another Minnesota study the biomass of
individual prickly rose plants increased after a mid-May wildfire,
nearly doubling from the second to the fifth postfire sampling date
. Thirty-three years after another Minnesota wildfire, prickly rose
is still of some importance in mixed stands containing aspen, birch and
jack pine, although it appears to be a remnant of early postfire
succession . In Ontario jack pine stands, prickly rose is a stable
species that is present before and after prescribed fires .
For information on prescribed fire and postfire responses of many plant
species, including prickly rose, see these Research Project Summaries:
SPECIES: Rosa acicularis
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Journal of Botany. 57: 2820-2823. 
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undergrowth species of Minnesota forest communities. Minnesota Forestry
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