Dog Rose (Rosa canina) also known as dogberry and witches’ briar is stunning, both in high summer when in flower or when showing the rich orange-red bloom of the Autumn hips.


Last week as we travelled down the Oxford Canal on Eileen the rose hips were in extravagant abundance in the towpath hedgerows.


The plants name ‘dog’ is sometimes considered to be a disparaging term, indicating ‘worthlessness’; a ‘wild rose’ in contrast to the sophistication of rose cultivars.


However,  this might not actually be the case as rose hips are known to have been used in a poultice to treat the bite of rabid dogs from the Roman period until the late 18th century.


Another theory claims the Dog Rose got its name because the flower blooms when the dog star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major and the sun are both in the sky together which used to be around July early August, although the rose tends to flower a little earlier these days in June and July.


In fact the Dog Rose seems to attract fanciful stories, such as the ‘fact’ that the Romans would fasten roses to the ceiling of rooms where orgies, parties and secret meetings were to be  held. The roses on the ceiling confirmed symbolically that anything said or done in that room was in confidence and would remain so. It’s claimed an echo if this use is to be seen in the form of plaster ceiling roses that came to adorn large houses!

Perhaps I’d be on firmer ground if I stick to the facts!

Dog Rose.tif

Dog Rose is scrambling, deciduous shrub rose normally ranging in height from 1-5 m, though sometimes it can scramble higher into the crowns of taller trees.


This rose doesn’t have thorns instead its stems are covered with small, sharp, hooked prickles angled downwards. These help the plant to gain a purchase on a host plant, and climb.

Rosa canina

The leaves are pinnate, with five to seven leaflets arranged in pairs and are a dark shiny green oval shape and toothed. The underside of the leaf is lighter. The leaves have single or double-toothed saw-edges, and are mostly hairless on both sides.


The flowers are usually pale pink, but can vary between a deep pink and white. They are 4-6 cm diameter with five petals, and mature into the ovoid  red-orange fruit or hip. The hips are sometimes called Dragons Eyes and aren’t edible. The pink flowers each have of five petals, with a yellow centre and are up to 6cm across, quite large and really a stunning wildflower with a stunningly beautiful scent . There are lots of stamens with bright yellow anthers that get darker as they get older.  The flowers can vary from a very pale pink through to a deep pink. The flowers are usually in clusters of between one to five.


Rose hips have twenty more times vitamin C than oranges and during the Second World War when fresh fruit was scarce the government asked that rose hips be picked to make rose hip syrup.

Research is now being done into using rose hips as a treatment for osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and in the treatment of kidney and bladder disorders.

The Dog Rose was also used as the symbol of the Tudor monarchs and is has become the flower symbol of England.


Further Reading:

Fact Sheet: http://www.naturescalendar.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/E38C664A-2644-41D4-9D7E-94033E3D38BD/0/facts_dogrose.pdf


One thought on “Canal Flora: Dog Rose

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