Wild roses are often misunderstood and frequently forgotten about, but their distribution and usefulness is quite an eye opener. If we take a quick look at one such hybrid, Rosa Acicularis Lindl or "prickly rose" you will see what I mean.
These roses grow from Alaska to Quebec and New England. They are found in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Northern New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Minnesota,, Michigan and Wisconsin, It's found in the Rockies and on the northern great plains. It was primarily from Asian Europe but extended into Alaska.
"Prickly Rose" hybridizes with the smooth white rose, Nootka Rose, Prairie wild rose and Wood's rose and is a species of the Boreal forests.Because of this it is an important food source for grouse, snowshoe hares and rodents.
Mule deer eat it in Colorado. White tail deer, pronghorn, elk, moose and mountain sheep all consider it a delicacy. Black and grizzly bears eat the rose hips as do many songbirds and small mammals. Larger fur bearing animals such as bears, rabbits and beaver eat hips, stems and foliage.
Hips of prickly rose are high in Vitamin A and a winter source of vitamin C. Rose hips tend to be highly digestible and fairly high in protein although this decreases as leaves fall.
Thickets of wild roses provide excellent nesting sites and protective covering for birds as well as shelter for small mammals. Mule deer, white tail deer and elk get good thermal cover as well as food.
Prickly rose is recommended for re-vegetation of moist wet sites. It is evidently a very good choice for erosion control, covering an area very rapidly, and with tolerance to crude oil. It has shown good drought tolerance on the amended oil sands of Alberta.
Roses like these are attractive ornamentals, provide a major source of nectar for bees, juice from the hips is extracted and used for jellies and syrups, pulp from the hips (after seed removal) is used to make marmalade's and catsups and dried hip powder is used in baking. Green hips can be boiled and cooked, young shoots can be used as a herb, leaves, flowers and buds can be infused to make teas and flower petals can be eaten raw or infused for perfume.
Native Americans made medicinal tea from these roses, the inner bark was smoked, rose roots were boiled to make a compress to stop swellings and the same solution was gargled to prevent sore throats and nose bleeding. Of course, not being doctors, we cannot tell how effective these remedies were.
Wild roses are moderately fire resistant and are well adapted for sprouting after a fire. Prickly rose seeds are fire resistant, and self seeding on a fire ravaged site is quite possible. You want to re-vegetate after a fire? Wild Roses are a good bet.
So how close do we come to a miracle bush?
What is amazing is that wild roses, particularly the Prickly rose can be found is such far away places and provide such an abundance of resources.
[ Our thanks to the ASDA Forest Service for some of the information used in this article. Their database is quite formidable. ] www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants.
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