Rosa Canina, wild dog rose, wild rose or briar rose as it is variously known, is believed to have its origins in Persia and Asia Minor and to have travelled west with the Romans to Europe and Great Britain, where it is considered a native, and then on to North America, New Zealand and Australia. As it migrated, it colonised road verges, hedgerows and open woodlands.
Wild dog rose is a deciduous perennial and can grow from 1 meter to more than 3 meters (3 1/4 feet to about 10 feet) in height, depending on its location. It propagates by seeds and by suckering. Of the vast numbers of roses in existence, Rosa Canina makes up the most populous of 10 sections of the subgenus Rosa L. The wild rose of Alaska and of South America are different genera. There is so much variation that Rosa Canina has been further divided into five subspecies.
The flowers vary from white to pink and are 3 to 5cm (1 1/4 to 2 inches) in width with the classic rose sepals, which fold back when the flower blooms on a green, thorned stem. Leaves are pinnate and consist of five leaflets. The blooms, appearing in June, develop into bright red fruit called hips, which ripen in autumn.
The success of the wild dog rose may be attributed to its ability to live in a broad range of environments and to thrive in semi-shade or full sun, in soil from sand to clay, from acid to normal, as long as there is sufficient moisture. They do not do well in areas affected by salt-laden sea winds. Seed germination appears to be erratic with better germination in the seeds' second year, and vegetative propagation is difficult.
The fruit, or hip, of the wild dog rose has been the most popular part of the plant in recent times. Rose-hip jelly and syrup are made by boiling the rose hips and adding sugar. During World War II, when Great Britain experienced food shortages, the hips were picked from the woodlands and hedgerows as a food to prevent scurvy. The hips may be dried and used as a tea or fermented into wine. More recently, rose hip seeds have been found to provide relief for osteoarthritis.
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