Rosa multiflora (Japanese Rose, Living Fence, Rambler Rose)

description: climbing shrub

place of origin: Japan, Korea, eastern China

urban habitat: commonly found along roadsides, highway banks, fields, vacant lots, rubble dumps, railroad tracks, margins of woodlands, chain-link fences; thrives in a variety of soil and light conditions, in full sun or shade and can form impenetrable clumps in sunny conditions that block the growth of other plants; fruits are dispersed by birds and can remain viable in soil for up to 20 years.

ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; food and cover for wildlife, nesting place for some bird species; erosion control on slopes; tolerant of roadway salt and compacted soil.

history: Rosa multiflora was introduced in North America in the early 1800’s from Europe and in 1866 it was imported from Japan as a rootstock for ornamental roses. It is found throughout most of the US and in parts of southern Canada. It is considered a noxious weed in most US states. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the plant was distributed by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service for erosion control and was promoted as a “living fence” to control livestock and create crash barriers along highways. In its native habitat, various parts of the plant have been used medicinally: as a laxative, diuretic, and for pain relief. It is currently being studied as a cancer-preventative. Its fruit is edible and is rich in carotene and vitamin C, although the layer of hairs around the seeds can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract. Young shoots and leaves can be consumed raw or cooked. Its seeds are a rich source of vitamin E. Its young green vines can be used to produce a pink paper and its roots a pinkish pigment.