Herb: Prickly Rose

Latin name: Rosa acicularis

Synonyms: Rosa alpina, Rosa bourgeauiana, Rosa gmelinii, Rosa karelica, Rosa sayi

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Prickly Rose:

The plant is rich in tannins and is used as an astringent. A decoction of the root is used as a cough remedy. An infusion of the roots is used as a wash for sore eyes. An infusion of the leaves and bark has been used as eye drops in the treatment of snow blindness. A decoction of the stems and branches has been used as a blood tonic and as a treatment for stomach complaints, colds and fevers. A poultice of the chewed leaves has been used to alleviate the pain of bee stings. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.

Description of the plant:


2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Thickets and rocky often acid slopes.

Edible parts of Prickly Rose:

Fruit - raw or cooked. It can also be used in syrups and purees or be dried and used in teas and soups. The fruit contains about 2 - 3% (dry weight) vitamin C, and up to as much as 7% in some varieties. The ripe fruit has a rich sweet flavour, the taste is best after the fruit has been frosted. The fruit is about 25mm in diameter, but there is only a thin layer of flesh surrounding the many seeds. Some care has to be taken when eating this fruit, see the notes above on known hazards. A tea is made from the leaves, it is rich in vitamin C. Young shoots - peeled and eaten in spring. Petals - raw. Remove the bitter white base. The seed is a good source of vitamin E, it can be ground and mixed with powder or added to other foods as a supplement. Be sure to remove the seed hairs.

Other uses of the herb:

An orange dye is obtained from the fruit. The plant can be grown as an informal hedge.

Propagation of Prickly Rose:

Seed. Rose seed often takes two years to germinate. This is because it may need a warm spell of weather after a cold spell in order to mature the embryo and reduce the seedcoat. One possible way to reduce this time is to scarify the seed and then place it for 2 - 3 weeks in damp peat at a temperature of 27 - 32C (by which time the seed should have imbibed). It is then kept at 3C for the next 4 months by which time it should be starting to germinate. Alternatively, it is possible that seed harvested "green" (when it is fully developed but before it has dried on the plant) and sown immediately will germinate in the late winter. This method has not as yet(1988) been fully tested. Seed sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame sometimes germinates in spring though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be sown as early in the year as possible and stratified for 6 weeks at 5C. It may take 2 years to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Plant out in the summer if the plants are more than 25cm tall, otherwise grow on in a cold frame for the winter and plant out in late spring. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July in a shaded frame. Overwinter the plants in the frame and plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth. Select pencil thick shoots in early autumn that are about 20 - 25cm long and plant them in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame. The cuttings can take 12 months to establish but a high percentage of them normally succeed. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Plant them out direct into their permanent positions. Layering. Takes 12 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Thickets and rocky often acid slopes.

Known hazards of Rosa acicularis:

There is a layer of hairs around the seeds just beneath the flesh of the fruit. These hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract if ingested.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.