Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Kellscraft Studio Logo


CLOSELY related to the brambles are the dainty wild roses,1 seven species of which are locally distributed along our roadsides from Maine to Minnesota. The most famous wild rose of the country is the prairie rose (Rosa setigera); it grows only in the West and South. This is a tall, climbing species armed with nearly straight, large thorns; the leaflets are egg-shaped, sharply toothed, and are arranged from three to five on a stem. The flowers, which bloom in July, are borne in flat-topped clusters, and are at first pink but finally pinkish white. This rose is the parent of the Baltimore Belle; its strong shoots, Dr. Gray says, grow from ten to twenty feet in one season.

The swamp rose (Rosa Carolina) is frequently found beside the road leading through boggy districts; it always grows on more or less damp ground, and spreads its stems from two to eight feet outward from the root. In Nantucket it grows in dense thickets beside the swampy edges of the ponds, near the south shore, together with the cat-tail flag (Typha latifolia). I have also sketched it as it grew beside the road leading from the village of Siasconset to Sankaty Head light. This species has from five to nine (usually seven) smooth, dull-green, finely toothed leaflets. The stems are provided with strong hooked thorns; the sepals (the pointed green leaflets which enfold the pink buds) are generally deciduous.2 The delicate pink flowers are borne in small clusters; they greatly vary in strength of tint. Rosa Carolina is distributed from Maine to Florida, and westward to Minnesota and Mississippi.

Prairie Rose

The dwarf wild rose (Rosa lucida), sometimes called shining rose, grows from one to five feet high, has stout stems armed with numerous more or less hooked thorns, and about seven small, thick, usually shining leaflets, dark green above and coarsely toothed. The flowers are pale pink and grow singly as well as in clusters; the sepals are bristly, more or less long and slender, and are frequently notched. The stipules (flaring sides of the leaf stem where it joins the main stem) of this species are dilated or broad; those of Rosa Carolina are long and narrow. Rosa lucida is distributed from Newfoundland southwestward to eastern Pennsylvania; it blooms [earlier than Rosa Carolina] in June or July.

Rosa Carolina.

Rosa humilis is a species somewhat similar to the foregoing, but it extends as far West and Southwest as Minnesota and Louisiana. It is common, however, in drier soil or on rocky slopes. It grows from one to three feet high, and has slender, less leafy stems with nearly straight thorns. The stipules are usually narrow, and, Gray says, in a few instances somewhat dilated. The leaflets are also larger, thinner, and dull green. The flowers are very often solitary and the sepals are nearly always lobed. The early wild rose (Rosa blanda) is characterized by its thornless stems; only occasionally it is found with a few and very rarely with numerous straight, weak thorns. It grows on stony banks and beside rocks, and its stem is from one to three feet high. Its leaf is composed of from five to seven somewhat wedge-shaped and blunt leaflets, pale in color and a trifle hoary beneath; the stipules are large and plain-edged, or rarely they are slightly toothed. The light-pink flowers are large and bloomin late spring or early summer; they are either solitary or grow two or three in a cluster; the fruit is nearly globular. Rosa blanda is distributed locally through New England, and is common in central New York, Orchard Lake and Munroe, Mich., La Salle County, Ill., and the vicinity of the Great Lakes.

Rosa Iucinda.

Besides these five indigenous species which I have described, there are two other brier roses which have come to us from Europe, both of which are to be found on many roadsides, especially near old farmhouses. The first of these is the Eglantine or sweetbrier (Rosa rubiginosa), which came over from England with the early settlers. This rose may at once be distinguished from all others by the aromatic fragrance of its crushed leaves. The small, roundish, double-toothed leaflets, five to seven on a stem, are lined beneath with russet-colored glands, which are accountable for the sweet scent. The small, pink flowers are mostly solitary, and the long, thorny branches are disposed to climb. The fruit is pear shaped; that of Rosa blanda is nearly globular. The second brier rose is the dog rose (Rosa canna), which is extremely common along the roadsides of New England; it is distributed quite generously through some parts of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and southern New York, and is even found as far Southwest as Tennessee. This species is very similar to the foregoing, but it lacks the aromatic fragrance. Sometimes the branches are unarmed, but frequently they are quite thorny; the flowers grow from two to four in a cluster or they are solitary. The sepals are bordered with tiny leaflets, and they are deciduous; the fruit is oblong ovate or nearly globular. This rose has also come to us from Europe.

Rosa humilis.

On the South Shore of Orchard Lake, Oakland Co., Michigan.

Rosa blanda.

Passing, now, the multitudinous roses under cultivation and the interest which is attached to their pedigree, we come to three beautiful species, commonly seen in parks and private grounds, which I can not leave without at least a word of commendation. These are the Burnet or Scotch rose (Rosa spinosissima), the Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa), and the trailing rose (Rosa Wichuraiana). The Scotch rose grows about two feet high and is exceedingly thorny; it bears most charming, delicate yellow (sometimes white or pink), early blooming flowers, which are a delight to the eye in early summer. The leaves are composed of from seven to nine small, roundish leaflets. The Japanese rose is remarkable for its superb, dark-green, bushy foliage; the single flowers are white or pink and the large nearly globular fruit orange-red.

Seed vessels in two forms of Rosa blanda.

This rose blooms in early summer, but its great charm, I think, is its luxuriant, ornamental foliage. The trailing rose3 (Rosa Wichuraiana) is extensively planted among the stony borders and rocky ledges of parks; it creeps rapidly over the ground and sends out in one season stems fully ten feet long; it bears single white flowers; the tiny thick leaflets are shining dark green. This rose, which is also Japanese, is one of the most charming of the single kind in cultivation; it is remarkably hardy. It is quite common on the borders of the roads in the Arnold arboretum. Very closely related to the roses are the whitethorns or hawthorns. Only three or four species are common in the North, the rest are Southern.


The scarlet-fruited thorn (Cratægus coccinea) appears frequently on the borders of the highway near the old farmhouse, and we may recognize it at once by its ornamentally notched and toothed leaf, and its dull-scarlet, tiny, apple shaped fruit. The branches are beset with thorns about an inch long. Another species (Cratægus Crus-galli) bears thorns from two to four inches long, and also small apple-shaped fruit. The leaves are wedge-shaped, thick, and dark green. This species is frequently found in the thickets by the roadsides throughout the North. But one of the handsomest of the thorns is called Cratægus mollis (C. S. Sargent). This has large leaves, flowers, and fruit; it is commonly planted in parks. It blooms fully two weeks earlier than C. coccinea, and may readily be distinguished from that species by its densely woolly or hairy shoots. Its range is from eastern Massachusetts to Missouri and Texas. Chief among the thorns which are planted in our parks is the English hawthorn (Cratægus oxyacantha); but this is too well known to need description here. There are kinds with double pink or white flowers. Two other species are also found in the North and West, named Cratægus tomentosa and Cratægus punctata; the former is characterized by small ill-scented flowers, large leaves which are densely woolly beneath, and obovate fruit, and the latter by small leaves and more or less white-dotted red or yellow fruit quite an inch in diameter. Cratægus tomentosa is distributed westward from eastern New York, but the other species is common throughout the North and extends as far South as Georgia.

The last member of the Rose subfamily is the shad bush, or Juneberry (Amelanchier Canadensis); sometimes it is called service berry. This shrub we are quite sure to see beside the road, particularly in dry wooded places. It has charmingly plain, shiny, evenly toothed leaves with a smooth texture; the flowers, which appear just before the leaves, hang in large, drooping, white clusters; the petals are long and narrow. The fruit, ripe in June, resembles the huckleberry, and in different stages of development is buff, flesh-color, pink, red, purple, and black-purple; indeed, it is even more beautiful than the graceful flowers, and is edible besides; up in the back country it is called “sugar plums.” The shad bush is distributed throughout the North and South; westward its limit is on a line reaching from Minnesota to Louisiana. Throughout the southern region of the White Mountains, and in the vicinity of Mount Monadnoc it is common on the borders of meadow and road.

The third subfamily (Pear) includes the pear, apple, and quince trees, and the chokeberry and mountain ash.

The chokeberry (Pyrus arbutifolia), is indeed as unacceptable to the palate as the name seems to imply; but I have noticed that the birds do not consider the puckery taste of the berry so objectionable, as they often appear to enjoy the fruit in the late fall when there are many other berries still clinging to the bushes.

Dog Rose.

Damp ground is the chosen place of the chokeberry, and it is generally found in the thickets beside the bridge, not far from where the Phoebe bird loves to build her nest. It grows from one to three feet high, has somewhat narrow, toothed, sharply pointed leaves, and white or pinkish flowers, which grow in flattish clusters at the ends of the branches. The fruit is dull purple, small, pear-shaped, or nearly round, and very astringent; it clings to the branch after the leaves have fallen.

The Chokeberry.

The chokeberry is common from New England to Florida; westward its limitation is Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana. Pyrus nigra (Sargent) is a species with broader, reverse, egg-shaped leaves, earlier flowers, and larger black fruit, which soon falls.

Nearly related to the chokeberry is the beautiful mountain ash (Pyrus Americana), which, however, is more of a tree than a shrub. Its pretty sumach-like compound leaves, and its bright scarlet berries, about as large as peas, are very often seen beside the highways which lead through the Northern States, and it may easily be identified by its aromatic wild-cherry odor when bruised. Another species with broader and somewhat blunt leaves, called Pyrus sambucifolia, is common among the mountains of northern New Hampshire and Vermont; it is not likely to be seen beside the road, however, unless planted there.

The last member of the Rose Family to which I will draw attention is the Japan quince (Pyrus Japonica, or Cydonia Japonica). This is a familiar roadside character of parks and gardens. In the Arnold arboretum, near Boston, there are several varieties of the beautiful shrub, which, it seems to me, should be more commonly cultivated. These are P. Japonica atrosanguinea, deep-scarlet blossoms; P. Japonica rosea, scarlet-pink blossoms; P. Japonica Moorlosi, variegated rose-red and nearly white blossoms; and P. Japonica Mallardi, scarlet blossoms.

Nevertheless, the Pyrus Japonica is an old favorite which will hardly lose its popularity, for in April (in the North in the middle of May) this shrub puts forth its leaves and beautiful scarlet apple-blossom-shaped flowers long before anything else shows a sign of responding to the spring weather. It will be found among the shrubbery of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and Central Park, New York.

The thoroughly Japanesque character of Pyrus Japonica is revealed in its spring colors when the leaves are just unfolding. In almost any position on the garden grounds it is suggestive of the artistic kakemono. A more beautiful picture than that which it forms against the soft-gray background of an old weatherbeaten board fence is unimaginable. The ruddy tinge of the budding foliage, the brilliant scarlet of the blossoms in broad sunshine, the rugged tracery of the slender brown twigs with perhaps the azure blue of some dainty bluebird visitor (the bluebird is very frequently attracted by the red flowers) — all these uncommon colors and picturesque lines are peculiarly like the vigorous decorations which we may see on some Japanese screen. Yet I have no doubt but what the Pyrus Japonica is scarcely thought to be more than a familiar scarlet-flowered shrub of ordinary interest; and it seems as though it was most frequently planted for a hedge with a careless indifference about environment.


1 As far as I could do so, I have avoided straight botanical descriptions, yet have followed very closely Gray’s records of the salient points of each species, believing that these are the most useful means for the identification of a rose. The few botanical technicalities which occur I will explain thus: We should properly look at a leaf point up and stem down, just as we should naturally look at an egg with the large end down; an obovate leaf is therefore wide end up, and of course stem end down. The sepal of a flower is usually green and leaflike; in the case of the rose it enfolds the bud and finally withers away on the upper end of the seed receptacle. The stipule of the leaf is that flaring edge or leaflike formation of the leafstem next adjoining the branch. It is necessary to understand these simple terms as they bear directly upon the characteristic differences of species.

2 Gray describes the sepals of this rose as spreading and deciduous in his Manual, but in his Field, Forest, and Garden Botany, edited by Prof. L. H. Bailey, no notice is taken of the fact. I have also been reminded by Mrs. M. L. Owen, one of the leading botanists of New England, of the deciduous character of the sepals. Very probably, however, this is a general rule, not without an occasional exception, as in two or three cases I have found the withered leaflets still attached to the seed receptacle, but while the latter was yet ruddy-colored.

3 Catalogued and sold under the name of Memorial Rose by Peter Henderson & Co., seedsmen, New York.

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.