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  Multiflora rosa  

Department of Natural Resources

Illinois Exotic Species:
multiflora rose Rosa multiflora


Multiflora rose was introduced to the eastern United States from Japan in 1886 as rootstock for cultivated roses. In the 1930s the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted use of multiflora rose in soil erosion control. Multiflora rose was introduced into Illinois in the 1950s for use as wildlife cover and food. Wildlife managers recognized that this thorny, bushy shrub provided excellent escape cover and a source of winter food. Because of its dense thorny nature, the commercial nursery trade began marketing it as a "living fence" as well. The species soon spread and became a serious invader of agricultural lands, pastures and natural communities throughout Illinois. Multiflora rose readily invades prairies, savannas, open woodlands and forest edges. It is a thorny, bushy shrub that can form impenetrable thickets or "living fences" and smother out other vegetation. It is a serious pest species throughout the eastern United States. Multiflora rose is categorized as an exotic weed under the Illinois Exotic Weed Control Act of 1987. As such, the sale or planting of this species within Illinois is prohibited.

Leaves are borne alternately on the stems and divided into five to 11 leaflets. Each leaflet is oval and toothed along its margin. Clusters of numerous, white flowers blossom in late spring. The fruits are small, firm, red hips that may remain on the plant into winter. The great majority of plants develop from seeds remaining in the soil relatively close to plants from which they were produced. Birds and mammals also consume the hips and can disperse them greater distances in their wastes. Rose seeds may remain viable in the soil for 10-20 years. Multiflora rose also spreads by layering, when the tips of canes touch the ground and form roots, and by plants that arise from shallow roots. Older rose shrubs may obtain a height of 15 feet or more.

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