Species Clones

Species require a skilled knowledge of taxonomy to verify identification. Who’s word does one accept as being the ultimate authority on the subject?

I’ll bet there are many commonly accepted and misidentified species floating around.

I have at least two species roses that grow wild (naturalized?) near me. I don’t think I can identify them except generally. If I were to get a picture of them in bloom, and of the hips, is there anyone around here (or elsewhere) who could identify them more exactly?

Hi Amber, That’s a good point that it can be difficult to identify species. The best we can do is to gather as much data as we can and compare it to the characteristics of described species. In general we should be able to get it down to which section of roses it is within based on general morpholigical characteristics. Interspecific hybridization, either naturally in the wild or in cultivated settings, make things more challenging as well. One added trait that helps as well is determining chromosome number. For instance, I learned the R. nutkana at the MN landscape arboretum is 5x. The species is reported as being 6x. That suggests that the seed used to generate this plant (probably coming from another arboretum) is a cross with a tetraploid rose of some sort. So perhaps a cross of the 6x R. nutkana straight species x 4x something nearby gave rise to this 5x hybrid raised in cultivation. Also their R. carolina is 2x and the species is reported as being 4x. Perhaps there is some misidentification. In addition, some people suggest that the reported R. acicularis in ‘Therese Bugnet’ may more likely be the diploid species R. woodsii, a species in the same section of the genus as R. acicularis (typically a polyploid of some sort- 4x, 6x, or 8x) and also common in Canada. I really wanted some 6x R. nutkana plants this past spring for a study I was doing and had trouble getting them. I got many 4x and 2x clones from people which most likely are not R. nutkana, but another rose in the same section that was easy to confuse with this species or some interspecific hybrid. Anyways, with species clones I think all we can do is gather as much data of different types as possible and make our best determination. Some will be easier to identify than others. For most objectives, just knowing the good traits within some wild rose and exploring its breeding potential to pass them along is valuable, even if we are not fully confident of its identity.



Amber, you might try contacting Fred Boutin.

He was the taxonomist in charge of the Huntington Library Collections for some time now retired. He has been generous in the past in attempting to help.

The Huntington should still have someone in his stead or someplace like the Cranford or Arnold might able help.

Larger collections and sone universities have those on staff they could recommend.


Here is a link the USDA plant data base. It won’t help you identify the plants, but it will tell you which species have been reported in your state and in some caes your county.

Link: plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ROSA5

Thanks so much! I had a rough idea that one is a multiflora, and the other either a californica or nutkana. Each looks a little different than any pictures I can find though, in the details. I don’t know if that means anything, besides it’s a subspecies? For example, the thing about the leaves of the multiflora that I remember is that they are very smooth and rounded. That was what interested me about that one the most, the foliage was very unusual (to my eyes). It grows in fairly deep shade, and I don’t know if this is significant, it’s hips are VERY sweet. I pinched one off to look at it, and being soft it broke. I could smell a very sweet smell, so I tastd a tiny bit and it was as sweet and sugar, with a fruity taste. And the other pink and white rose has hips that have little spikes on them, soft spikes but fairly long, on oblong hips. I think I’m going to have to go back and find them again and take pictures so I know my mind isn’t playing tricks on me.

The roses growing in my area according to the USDA data base are: Rosa californica, Rosa canina, Rosa eglanteria, Rosa gymnocarpa, Rosa multiflora, Rosa nutkana, Rosa pisocarpa, Rosa spithamea var. sonomensis, and maybe Rosa yainacensis.

Part of the trouble I’m having identifying them from pictures is that the pictures for each species look a little different, in flower shape, color, leaf shape, etc. How much variation is there usually within one ‘species’ of the species roses?

Good luck with those Amber. Mo matter what they are they can be utilized as proprietary breeding varieties which will make your work unique and personal. I think that’s fun.

The identification of a species can be tricky for many reasons. One is that there is great variability within a species especially from one end its range to the other. Another is that there will always be hybrids with other species, resulting in plants with characteristics of both species. Third, there is disagreement among the experts as to the number of species and how to separate them. There are the lumpers that say there are fewer species allowing for greater variability within each species. There are also the splitters that say the variations constitute a new subspecies or a new species altogether. So if you asked three different experts you might get three different answers. This is all just semantics, at what point does one say that this population is different enough to be classified as a new species or not. There has to be a break point somewhere. The arguments are where those break points should be. This is all because human beings like to label and to categorize things. Different people have different ideas on how to go about this. The plants don

Thank you! I appreciate all the links. I went back out today to take a better look and take some pictures. Both of them have lost every single leaf they have, which I was hoping would not be the case. I was hoping the multiflora would have some dry leaves still sticking to it somewhere. The one thing about it I did note, was that it is completely and totally thornless. I couldn’t find so much as one thorn on the whole thing, though the fact that it was growing partially in the bushes (blackberry bushes) prevented me from getting at all of it. After some googling I see references to things like ‘some multifloras are thornless’ and a brief paper on thornless multiflora sports. So I don’t know if there are thornless subspecies, or if this is a sport. I was starting to doubt my memories of it’s unusual foliage, but now I think it may be a wierdo. One paper seems to say that thornless sports are a little unstable, and that they can revert to having thorns after a temperature shock. It also says that many are sterile…but this one had quite a few hips, some of which I’d collected earlier, stratified and put into trays. It will be interesting to see if any of the seeds gernimate, and if they do, how thorny they are.

On a closer examination of the second rose, I noticed that while most of the hips have spikes, a few don’t, or only have one or two tiny spikes at the bottom. So maybe it is a hybrid?

I also found an article by Dr. Buck that mentioned thornless multifloras, mostly on the subject of using multifloras as a root stock. But it also mentions that they are all propagated by cuttings. The one it most resembles is "clarke multiflora. This is a thornless selection which originated in Texas. The leaf rachis is less thorny than Welch’s Multiflora which it otherwise resembles. It has a short dormant period in winter. " (for the less thorny leaf rachis). However how would something from texas propagated by cutting end up growing wild in northern california? The only one that is not mentioned as coming from texas that also fits the bill is "tate multiflora. The thornless, upright plants are highly resistant to blackspot. It has a short period of dormancy in winter. " However that still doesn’t answer the question of how it got where it is, and none of them mentions unusual foliage, though as rootstock there would really be no point.

Thoughts anyone? I should add that where this rose is, there has never to my knowledge been houses, and it’s right on a river where the ground is wet and boggy during the winter so I can’t imagine anyone was living right there and planted a rose that was grafted.

Link: www.ars.org/About_Roses/propagating-under.htm

Thanks for the link. I had read that Dr Buck had worked on rootstocks also. I

Dr. Bucks’ paper on rose rootstocks is online at the Heritage Rose Foundation website (linked below.)

Acta Hort has an entire book from 2006 on rose hips that is available ONLY as a CD; the abstracts that are open to the public show the level of interest in rose hips that exist mostly in Europe.

Link: www.heritagerosefoundation.org/4resources/articles/annuals/GriffithBuckRootstocks2.pdf

Rosa multiflora was used by the goverment (highway programs) in my area. That is why it is semi-common here.

Geeesh guys, haven’t you ever heard the expression, “a rose by any other name…”


I too admit to finding a lot of the nomenclature a tad suspect, and while I do relatively little actual hybridizing (theoretical hybridizing, yes. actual crossing, not enough…) I find that I really want to witness first-hand an individual rose’s performance before investing in hybridizing and growing its offspring.

Few rose species grow isolated from other species today, and I doubt many seedlings are “pure” anymore. Identifying a clone’s source is thus perhaps every bit as important as the presumed species.

(I was alway irked by the definition of species given in biology classes which really didn’t allow for fertile inter-specific, and even inter-generic hybrids.)

Ha ha! I know, I know. It’s not a big deal in that sense… I just like the ‘mystery solving’ aspect of it. And I am very pleased with it’s thornlessness.

And Paul- that is a very good idea. Where would birds be more likely to hang out then a blackberry patch by the river? If that is so then it must be that the thornless parent passed on it’s thornlessness to this seedling, so maybe I will be getting some more thornless seedlings.

As for the spikey hips, I saw a picture that looked quite similiar on one of the links posted above…the only problem was that the picture was just labeled rosa L.! I’m sure I’ve seen pictures that look similar to these before too, I just have to remember where.

And, I have been using my leftover rosehips for tea, so I’ve got an idea of thier flavoring. most of them are sour along the lines of a citrus tasting sour tasting as opposed to sugary which is why I was surprised. I generally try to use non-toxic sprays on my roses, so I don’t have to worry about thier edibility. The only thing is unlike other herbal teas they need quite a lot of boiling to get all the flavor out. All the hips, I think are edible to some degree or another, some just have more flavor then others. HT hips I think are more work to process, since you have to chop them up, but since I’m already processing them for seeds it doesn’t make that much of a difference to me. I would make jelly out of them, but I really don’t have the knack for jams or jellys.


You might want to check out Liz Druitt’s book Organic Rose Gardening as she has evaluations of the tastes of many, many rose hips as well as recipes.


“the definition of species given in biology classes which really didn’t allow for fertile inter-specific, and even inter-generic hybrids.”

These are definitions that apply to animals. In this case genetical or other strong boundaries are a necessity for distinctive species to exist.

Plants do not or little move and are locked by biological or geographical limits such as seas, mountains, ecological niche, pollinators etc…

So that there are many genus without crossing barriers. To name a few: Orchids, Aquilegias as well as many cacties do cross readily if grown together by gardeners or collectors when they never did in nature. Progenies being often fully fertile.

Paul, you were asking about a good rootstock for your area. You shouldn’t have any problem growing Rosa canina or Rosa eglanteria. They do well, even though there may be some winter kill, in my Zone 3 region. But another to consider is the ‘Therese Bugnet’ cultivar. Very cold hardy, of course, and because there are few prickles on the stems it likely would be easy to bud or graft to. The main advantage is that this cultivar is easily cloned from softwood or hardwood cuttings. Therefore, it’s easy to quickly propagate quantities needed for budding or grafting.

Note: In Buck’s list of rootstocks, Maney’s Ames 5 is the same as ‘Ames Climber’. Percy Wright gave it this name. It still exists in Canadian public rose gardens. It’s my intention to repeat the cross but use Rosa woodsii from Zone 3 instead of Rosa blanda, which likely came from a Zone 4 or 5 region.

“The main advantage is that this cultivar is easily cloned from softwood or hardwood cuttings. Therefore, it’s easy to quickly propagate quantities needed for budding or grafting.”

This will increase the risk of infection of seedlings with RMV or other viruses if the cloned rootstock is not virusfree, or the status is unknown. In the Netherlands there are programs to produce virusfree seed-raised (or cuttings-raised) rootstocks using quality systems that guarantee the rootstock is virusfree. Maybe Canada has such companies as well and you can order rootstocks from such companies.

It would be unfortunate to infect your seedlings with RMV because the rootstock is not virusfree.


Someone really needs to try transforming roses with the dominant thornless (prickleless) gene from Rubus.

Thanks Paul,

R.caninae and R.eglanteria have been hardy at the Landscape Arboretum most years here. There has been some die back in the worst winters. As long as they are root hardy then they should work fine. Besides winters aren’t as cold as they used to be. I have two plants of R.glauca that I grew from seed, which should be a good substitute. I have seen catalogs listing their clone of R.glauca as being nearly thornless, but my plants do have thorns.

I also have Therese Bugnet that I purchased last spring. It

The seedlings or R. glauca x R. pendulina Joan Monteith shared with me are nearly free of prickles.

I set a few hips using the pollen last season but no seedlings as yet.

I think the plant is attractive

Link: www.helpmefind.com/rose/pl.php?n=49434&tab=10