Multiflora rose was introduced to the East Coast from Japan in 1866 as rootstock for ornamental roses. Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted it for use in erosion control and as "living fences" to confine livestock. It was also used as "crash barriers" by highway departments across the country.
Multiflora rose is a thorny, perennial shrub with arching stems (canes), and leaves divided into five to eleven sharply toothed leaflets. The base of each leaf stalk bears a pair of fringed stipules. Beginning in May or June, clusters of showy, fragrant, white to pink flowers appear, each about an inch across. Small bright red fruit known as hips develop during the summer, becoming leathery, and remain on the plant through the winter.
Multiflora rose reproduces by seed and by forming new plants that root from the tips of arching canes that contact the ground. Fruits are readily sought after by birds which are the primary dispensers of its seed. Germination of Multiflora rose seeds is enhanced by passing through the digestive tract of birds. It has been estimated that an average Multiflora rose plant may produce a million seeds per year, which may remain viable in the soil for up to 20 years.
Multiflora rose is extremely prolific and can form impenetrable thickets that exclude native plant species. This exotic rose readily invades open woodlands, forest edges, successional fields, and meadows that have been subjected to land disturbance.
Multiflora rose is most effectively controlled by recognizing its appearance early and removing isolated plants before they begin to produce seed. Hand pulling is effective in small infestations. Make sure to where gloves and long sleeves as the plant is quite thorny. Remove the entire root section or re-sprouting will occur. Mowing 6 times per growing season for 3 to 4 years has proven effective. Chemical treatment to the stump is acceptable for larger infestations. Foliar spray is not recommended as it can be harmful to the surrounding flora and fauna. See the invasive removal page for how to carry out these methods. Any removal within 100 feet of wetland resource areas, including certified vernal pools, or within 200 feet of a perennial stream may require approval from the Concord Natural Resources Commission. Please contact the Division of Natural Resources before you begin.
The following native plants can serve as a good replacement to multiflora rose in a garden: