Origin: Multiflora rose is native to Japan, Korea, and eastern China. It was introduced to the United States as an ornamental in the 1860s. Starting in the 1930s, the U. S. Soil Conservation Service promoted its use in erosion control and as “living fences” for livestock. State conservation departments soon began distributing free cuttings to landowners to encourage its use as cover for cottontail rabbit, bobwhite quail, and pheasant, and as a food source for song birds. More recently, it has been planted on highway median strips to reduce headlight glare and to act as a crash barrier.
Description: Multiflora rose is a thorny shrub that has arching stems (canes) and alternate, pinnately compound leaves with 5 – 11 serrated, elliptic leaflets. Leaf stems partially surround the stem where they attach, and their bases have long, fine teeth, or hairs. White or, occasionally, pink flowers have 5 petals and many yellow anthers in their centers. They are about 1 inch across and appear between April and June. Small, spherical fruits (rose hips) develop in summer, turn red, become leathery, and remain on the plant through winter.
Distribution: Multiflora rose tolerates a wide range of light, moisture, and soil conditions. It frequently occurs in disturbed areas and can be found in dense woods, in prairies, in fields and pastures, along streams, and along roadsides.
Problem: This invasive rose is very prolific and can form dense thickets, excluding native plants. It is widely dispersed by birds, and germination is improved by passage through a bird’s digestive tract. One plant may produce 1 million seeds in a summer, which may remain viable in the soil for 20 years. New plants are also formed by rooting where cane tips touch the ground.
Control: Hand-pulling of seedlings or small plants may be effective, but care should be taken not to disturb the soil more than necessary. Glyphosate (3%) or triclopyr (3%) may be sprayed onto leaves. This can be done anytime during the growing season. Well-established stands are probably best controlled by cutting stems to ground-level and spraying or painting the cut stumps with a 20% glyphosate solution or a 20% solution of triclopyr and basal oil.
USE PESTICIDES WISELY: Always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions and wear all recommended personal protective gear and clothing. Contact your state department of agriculture for any additional pesticide use requirements, restrictions or recommendations.