Every rose has its thorns, and multiflora rose is no exception. While this lovely ornamental bush appears friendly enough, its thorns will get you. In addition to those thorns, this pretty shrub from Asia will propagate rapidly through seeds and through stems that take root easily. Its proliferative nature and spreading growth habit make it a very difficult plant to control. Introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental, this plant has become an overbearing guest who has worn out its welcome.
With no natural system of checks and balances here in the U.S., multiflora rose has morphed into an invasive plant that has taken over much of the native vegetation in many national parks in the northeastern portions of the U.S. Throughout the Midwest, multiflora rose is considered a noxious weed. And in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, multiflora rose is considered an invasive species. For the everyday gardener in the U.S., this means that multiflora rose is a plant to be aware of and to avoid cultivating.
Multiflora rose was not always considered a nuisance. It has long been admired for its delicate blooms. Its hardy root system has been useful along roadways to prevent erosion. Its bushy form has been useful as hedging for privacy and as living fencerows to keep livestock in. In spite of its history, the negatives now far outweigh the positives as it has infested pasture and farmlands at a staggering rate.
Multiflora Rose Identification
Multiflora rose looks very similar to other varieties of native rose bushes. So, before you take measures to control or eradicate a suspicious rose bush, make sure that you are dealing with a multiflora rose. Please watch this short video to learn how to identify a multiflora rose. If you are not certain of the identity, have your plant verified by someone who really knows.
Multiflora Rose Control
Since multiflora rose is not easily controlled, the goal has become to eradicate it. The best method for getting rid of this plant is through a combination of mechanical and chemical techniques. Mowing is a first action to take. It prevents seedlings from further development.
For a fully developed plant, digging, pulling, and cutting the bush to a stump is effective if you treat the stump with an herbicide. Several applications of herbicide may be required. For larger fields and infestations, prescribed burns have been effective. A combination of bulldozing and herbicides has been effective, too.
There are some biological methods for eradication that are currently being tested, but at this time are considered too preliminary to depend on. Surprisingly, they both involve Mother Nature. She may have stepped in to help native plants in several regions to regain the upper hand over the multiflora rose. A viral infection is sweeping through infested areas of multiflora rose and is infecting large populations. The virus takes 3 to 4 years to completely kill the plant.
Researchers are taking advantage of the opportunity and are working to present the virus to areas that have remained uninfected. Unfortunately, native roses as well as your garden variety rose bushes are not immune to this virus. As the multiflora roses succumb to the disease though, the native populations will hopefully be restored. This virus has so far been an advantage for the fight against the multiflora rose.
Another biological tactic in the fight against the multiflora rose involves a small insect that resembles a wasp. This insect, called a rose seed chalcid, has been imported from Japan to actually destroy many of the seeds of roses to help prevent further invasive growth. These methods will take years, and the consequences are difficult to predict.
As a gardener, you can help by being aware of the threat the multiflora rose presents for native varieties of vegetation. In spite of the alluring aroma of this rose, don’t be tempted to take a snip. And avoid taking a cutting from rose bushes along roadsides unless you can be absolutely certain the rose is not multiflora. If you are harboring a multiflora rose in your landscape, you should strongly consider getting rid of it as its seeds may be wreaking havoc somewhere unknown to you.
The best roses to plant in your own garden are those that are native and specific to your region. Visit your local nursery or extension office to learn more about how to enjoy roses without hosting one of the most unwanted plants in the country.
Want to learn more about getting rid of invasive multiflora rose?
See these helpful resources:
Multiflora Rose from The Nature Conservancy
Multiflora Rose Control from Missouri Department of Conservation
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Aidras
Dorothy Dauteuil says
I just went in my back yard to check to see if that tree is a multiflora rose that has invading my yard. it is transplating itself to my other bushes. I live in Dracut Mass I notice along the roadsides here that is overrun with this plant. what can we do ? It will ruin my yard
John Ellsworth says
Learn to live with it. The wild rose is here to stay.
Michael Aherne says
It will ruin your yard or in my case a field that I want to populate with native plants. Along the roadsides you mention it will slow or kill growing trees which in turn eliminates one very long term control: a solid over story of trees that might tend to control it.
Susan Braen says
The wild roses take over land, spread everywhere, and are frighteningly dangerous. Cutting them back is a huge waste of time. You get badly injured, and the rose just sends out more canes. I tried a propane torch on them. Immune from fire. I have a huge aversion to spreading chemicals on the sites where the roses are getting worse and worse, because the water off that land runs into my pond. It drains a huge water shed. I do not want to kill off my pond and fish. Pounds and pounds of raked leaves, two or three feet deep do not starve or hamper the roses. The over story is deciduous trees. No problem for the roses. I love the idea of bulldozing them. But, of course, I do not want to rip up my trees or have the dozer sink. And, I do no town a bulldozer. I realize that my comments are no help. But thanks for listening. (Maybe C4 is the answer.)
Ken Cox says
I volunteer for a local state park in the Philadelphia area, and are making good progress against multiflora rose by cutting it down to the stump and then applying a spot application of concentrated herbicide with a dabber just to the cut ends. I’m not exactly sure the formulation, but it was described as concentrated RoundUp with a blue marker dye to make it easy to see where it was applied. We have an herbicide license to apply it, so it’s all legit. This is much better than spraying, and guarantees only the rose is affected. Areas of the park that have been cleared are beautiful open forest instead of an impenetrable tangle of thorns, and the rose doesn’t just grow back. Some of the bushes we’re clearing are massive, with wood-like base stalks up to 4 inches in diameter, requiring a hand saw to cut through!
Debra Burleson says
This is encouraging. Thank you for posting.