Adaptations of the Rose

Hemera Technologies/ Images

Roses are members of the genus Rosa, and these flowering plants have developed a distinguishing set of characteristics through the course of their evolution. These adaptations have made roses better suited to their environments and ensure the survival of the plant.

While wild roses may be less complex than more showy cultivated varieties, all species of the genus Rosa share the same adaptations roses need to thrive.


One adaptation of the rose is how different species have adapted to survive in different geographic areas and climates. Rose species have adapted to require different amounts of water, sunlight and nutrients. Some tolerate being over-saturated; others withstand going without for a longer period of time. Some rose species have evolved to survive at a variety of elevations, and they will not do well unless planted in certain atmospheric conditions.


Most members of the genus Rosa are pollinated primarily by bees and other insects. A few varieties have adapted to being pollinated by wind. Of the roses that are pollinated by bees, many have adapted to bear blossoms in shades of red, pink and white, which are most easily seen by these insects. The fragrance emitted by many roses is another adaptation the flower has developed to attract pollinators.


Perhaps the most well-known structural adaptation, which is a change in an organism's physical properties, of the rose is the presence of sickle-shaped hooks commonly called "thorns." These are actually prickles, which are sharp, woody outgrowths of the stem's outer layer of tissue, and not true thorns. The presence of prickles is an adaptation roses developed to deter foraging herbivores, aid in the support or climbing of the plant and even reduce erosion in some areas.

Foliage Loss

Since roses only produce prickles on the stems of the plant, the leaves and blossoms are left unprotected from animals and insects. This may account for the adaptation many species of roses have developed that allow them to survive despite losing much of their foliage and flowers. Moderate defoliation can be tolerated by most species of roses. Some varieties experience no hindrance in growth despite losing most of its leaves. Even in the case of destruction by fire, the rhizomes (the underground, root-like structures of roses) typically will sprout new growth.