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Beautiful blooms, but Multiflora Rose brings native plants to their doom

Volunteers clean up Multiflora Rose in April along the Oklawaha Greenway

By Sarah Sussman, Conserving Carolina Americorps habitat restoration associate

What is Multiflora Rose?

There are a lot of things we know about Multiflora Rose: the plant produces beautiful flowers, they have a strong sweet scent, and they are thorny. But the most important thing to know about Multiflora Rose is that they are a nonnative invasive species. This means that they are an exotic species to the United States and do not originate in our North Carolina soil.

Rose multiflora was brought over to the U.S. from East Asia in the late 1700s to be utilized as an ornamental shrub and was later promoted as natural fencing along boundaries and corridors. Multiflora Rose can thrive in many different conditions, leading to its prominence in the eastern United States.

Why are invasives bad for natives? 

Invasives outcompete natives, they are able to grow and tolerate a wide range of conditions, and this is why they can thrive in places they are not originally from. Invasives often are pioneer species, meaning they are the first to populate after a disturbance. This explains why there are invasives around roadways, empty lots, and tree lines. These plants are a result of unintended consequence – Multiflora Rose is just one example of hundreds of plants that were brought to the United States as ornamental. There was not much thought at all of how the reproduction and mismanagement of this plant would affect the natural ecosystem where we live.

How to identify Multiflora Rose vs natives Carolina Rose and Blackberry

Multiflora Rose

  • Curved thorns. Often described as a “cat claw”
  • At the base of the stem you can see “fringe,” aka stipules that look hairy
  • Thickets can be up to 6 feet tall
  • Multiflora can climb up trees and other objects in a vine-like fashion
  • Contains compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets
  • Has serrated, toothed leaves
  • Green in color, but new growth is red
  • White, clustered flowers bloom in the summer from May to June

Carolina Rose

  • Straight thorns, not curved
  • No “fringe” (stipules)
  • Thickets can be up to 3 feet tall
  • Compound leaves with 3-9 leaflets
  • Serrated, toothed leaves
  • Light pink, non-clustered flowers bloom in summer from June to July. There are five petals with a yellow center


  • Is a first successional plant, meaning that it can inhabit places that have previously been uninhabited as an ecological community.
  • Some people are allergic to blackberry (like me!) where the site of the cut becomes itchy and swollen. Being pricked by a blackberry thorn is not like being pricked by any other thorn. The pain lasts for awhile longer than you might be used to.

Eliminating Multiflora Rose

Mowing alone will not control Multiflora Rose, but will make it easier to apply herbicide. Catch the plants early before they can establish into a large thicket. Wear gloves and protective clothes, these shrubs have sharp thorns that make them the bane of invasive species removal!

  • The cut and paint method involves herbicide. This is the most efficient way, but caution must be taken to to not affect healthy plants around it. Cut at base of plant and apply herbicide to the cut with a dabber. Do this in the winter or early spring.
  • If young enough, it may be possible to pull up Multiflora from the roots.

Native substitutes

  • Carolina Rose is capable of growing in many conditions. Carolina Rose thrives in full or moderate sunlight, and well-drained soil.
  • Blackberry can be propagated through leafy stem as well as root cuttings.

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