Multi-Flora Rose—The Devil in Disguise
Along a small dirt road near my home, I noticed a beautiful white flower. I pulled over to indentify the plant and immediately recognized it as my fall and wintertime nemesis, the multi-flora rose bush.
While western outdoorsmen and women may not recognize this hateful flower, it is painfully familiar to easterners.
More Invasive Plants
Rosa multiflora was sought after and imported by American farmers in the 1860s. They loved the plant’s hardy nature and saw it as an effective erosion control tool and a beautiful natural substitute for fences. But like a beautiful and exotic trophy animal, when relocated and taken out of her element, the plant took over.
Today multi-flora rose is seen for what it is, an invasive species. The plant can grow just about anywhere and spreads quickly, producing an average of one million seeds per plant annually. These seeds last up to 20 years in the soil, waiting for the right conditions to rear their ugly heads.
The plant is designated a noxious weed in Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia because of its habit of invading pastures, disrupting cattle grazing operations and generally taking over any open area left fallow for long.
The fruit, called rose hips, with the seeds removed can be eaten raw or used in preserves and pies. Birds have learned this and eat the rose hips, further spreading the seeds in their feces. Seed germination is actually enhanced by passing through a bird’s digestive tract.
The plant’s favorite pastime is drawing the blood of hikers, bikers, fishermen, and hunters wherever it occurs.
Positive traits of multi-flora rose
Even with all its faults, multi-flora rose is not all bad. Deer, rabbits, ruffed grouse, and a number of other species use the plant as both security cover and as a food source.
Many times I have plowed through multi-flora rose thickets and come out the other side with bloody hands—sometimes the blood of my quarry, more often my own. The stuff is nearly impossible to move through quietly, so my approach is typically detected long before I see game.
In the rare event of my sneaking up on an animal (or more likely the animal holding tight attempting to let me pass,) the chances of raising and aiming my weapon accurately in such dense cover are pretty low. The animals seem to know this.
Dealing with multi-flora rose
Emerging from a rose thicket bleeding, cursing and pulling hooked thorns from my face, ears, elbows and hind-parts, I’ve often wondered if these critters really like it in there (how could they?) or if they derive some sick pleasure from bloodying the man trying to kill them.
When a hunting partner emerges from a rose thicket bearing lashes and slashes across his hands and face, I often ask if he’s been “kissed by a rose.” Maybe the plant isn’t really a hunter’s worst nightmare, but they’ll swear it is in the moments after they’ve encountered it.
Once old Rosa multiflora sinks her teeth in, she is hard to get rid of without considerable time and monetary investments. Control options include mowing four to six times per growing season and spraying with glyphosate (Roundup) or other chemicals specifically targeting woody browse.
A viral pathogen called Rose-rosette disease is slowly spreading from east to west and a seed infesting wasp reduces seed viability, but at least for the near future, it looks like the multi-flora rose is here to stay.
When beauty shows itself, we should appreciate it, even if the source of that beauty is something we dislike, or even hate.
I sat for a few moments and enjoyed the multi-flora rose bush, probably for the first time ever. Before leaving I said a silent thank you.
Well, it was more like a “Thanks—you old witch.”
Tell us some of your own multi-flora rose stories in the comment section below.