Nootka Rose, Rosa nutkana

Nootka Rose                                                                         The Rose Family—Rosaceae

 Rosa nutkana C. Presl

(Rose-uh  noot-KAY-nuh)

Rosa nutkana beachNames:  Nutkana is derived from Nootka; Nootka Sound is a waterway on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia that was named after the Nuu-Chah-Nulth tribe that live in the area.  Nootka Rose is sometimes called Common, Wild, or Bristly Rose.  There are four recognized varieties whose names suggest differences in bristling.

Relationships: There are over 100 species of rose world-wide and thousands of cultivated varieties. Most are native to Asia, but several are also found in Europe, North America and Northwest Africa. There are about 22 species native to the United States. We have 3 common species on the west side of the Cascades in our region: Rosa gymnocarpa, R. nutkana, & R. pisocarpa. R. woodsii is common on the east side of the Cascades.

Distribution of Nootka Rose from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Nootka Rose from USDA Plants Database

Distribution:  Nootka Rose is found from southern Alaska to the northern California coast; east to Montana in the north and northern New Mexico in the south.

Growth: This species grows 2-9 feet (.5-3m.)

Habitat: Nootka Rose is found in a variety of habitats: shorelines, floodplains, streambanks, meadows, open forests and forest edges. Wetland designation: FAC, It is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

Rosa nutkana prickles are usually larger than Rosa pisocarpa prickles (which are usually more bristly).

Rosa nutkana prickles are usually larger than Rosa pisocarpa prickles (which are usually more bristly).

Diagnostic characters:  Nootka Rose is very difficult to distinguish from the Clustered Wild Rose, R. pisocarpa.  Both have pink flowers.  The major difference is that Nootka Rose has larger flowers that are usually borne singly (but sometimes in pairs or triplets) at the ends of branches.  The stems of Nootka Rose are variously prickly; paired prickles arise at the base of each leaf.  Leaves have 5-7 toothed leaflets, sometimes glandular, with more or less rounded tips.  Fruits are relatively large (1-2cm), purplish-red hips.

Nootka Rose hips

Rosa nutkana flowersIn the landscape, Nootka Rose is beautiful but can be aggressive.  It is great as a barrier plant, growing into an impenetrable thicket.  Its fragrance fills the air in a seaside habitat.  It is valuable for stabilizing banks, especially along streams.

Phenology: Bloom time:  May-July; Fruit ripens: Early fall, persisting through winter.

Propagation:  Sow in fall or stratify at 40º F (4º C) for 140 days.  Seeds may take two years to germinate; scarification and/or a warm stratification prior to the cold stratification may hasten germination.  Division of the root crown and rhizomes is an easy method to propagate fewer, larger plants.   Cuttings of semi-hardwood or hardwood are possible.

Rosa nutkana hipsUse by People: Some natives ate the hips, raw or dried, or they boiled them to make a tea.  The fruit tastes better after a frost.  Care should be taken, however, there is a layer of hairs around the seeds (actually achenes); these hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract.  A decoction of the roots was used to treat sore throats or as an eyewash.  The bark was used to make a tea to ease labor pains.  Rose hips are sometimes used to make jams or jellies; they are rich in vitamins, such as A, C, & E.

Nootka Rose with insectUse by Wildlife:

Nootka rose is important wildlife browse. (Roses are well known as “deer candy.”) Deer, elk, moose, caribou, bighorn sheep, bears, coyotes, and various rodents also eat the fruits. Squirrels, mice, beavers, and porcupines eat the twigs and leaves. Nootka rose thickets are used for nesting and escape cover by birds, including waterfowl, and, small mammals.


USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California


Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn