Rosa acicularis (Prickly Wild Rose)

Plant Info
Also known as: Prickly Rose
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to moist; boreal forest, woodland edges, rocky openings, lakeshores, thickets
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:4 to 8 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] 1 to 3 flowers (usually 1) at the tips of new lateral branches of older woody stems. Flowers are saucer shaped, pink to deep rose colored, 2 to 3 inches across with 5 broad, rounded petals with somewhat wavy edges, and sometimes notched at the tip. Numerous yellow stamens surround the shorter styles in the center. The sepals are narrow lance-like, 2/3 to just under 1 inch long, rounded at the base, often inflated at the tip, glandular around the edges and outer surface, the inner surface white hairy. Flower stalks are hairless.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and compound with 5 to 7 leaflets, rarely 9. Leaflets are 1 to 1¾ inch long and 2/3 to 1 inch wide, generally elliptic with an even taper on both ends, or wider above the middle (obovate). Edges are finely serrated, sometimes double toothed. Leaf stalks are ¾-1½ inch long, hairy and glandular with two wing-like appendages (stipules) at the base of the stalk that are gland-dotted around the edges. The upper leaf surface is dark green and smooth, the underside is light green and hairy.

[photo of stem] Woody stems and branches are reddish brown and densely covered in long, stiff bristles of widely variable lengths, New ground suckers and new lateral branches are also prickly, but less densely so.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The berry like fruits (rose hips) are ½ to ¾ inch long, round to oval, often nearly twice as long as wide, turning bright red in late summer. Inside the hips are several light brown seeds.


Prickly Rose is one of two medium to tall shrub roses found in Minnesota but is restricted in distribution to the northeastern 1/3 of the state, where it is the predominant rose species. A few old Herbarium records put this species out of that range, but those records are questionable and await confirmation. Our other large shrub rose is Smooth Rose (Rosa blanda), that is found statewide but more frequently in the western and southern regions. Similar in flower and growth habit, Prickly Rose can be distinguished by the dense prickles on both old and new growth (new growth of Smooth Rose has no prickles), the gland lined edges of the leaf stipules, small flower clusters of just one to three blossoms, and to some degree, the long ovoid fruit that is often characteristic. Our third native rose species is Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana), which also has bristles on old and new growth, but is found across open sandy, western and southern prairies and rarely grows over knee high. Prickly Rose is a circumboreal species, also native to northern Europe and Asia, but as there are some distinctions between the North American and Eurasian species, the North American species has the designation of subspecies sayi.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Itasca and St. Louis counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Ed - Linden Township, Clearwater MN
on: 2014-06-07 17:41:23

Growing wild in my property next to Oak Groves and deciduous woods.

Posted by: Kathy - Biwabik
on: 2014-07-13 23:52:59

We have numerous Prickly Wild Rose bushes browning in our yard. We live atop an old mine dump near Biwabik

Posted by: Mary - BWCAW
on: 2016-08-30 12:24:52

I think I found hips of this rose in the area around Isabella Lake in the BWCAW. The description on this site fits. Thank you for the info.

Posted by: Karen Judisch Gentry - Becker County
on: 2021-06-12 07:12:35

I grew up about 7 miles north west of Ogema and we had lots of pink wild roses. They were my mothers favorite flower.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-12 07:28:02

Karen, in that part of the state it is more likely you had Rosa blanda, smooth wild rose.

Posted by: Josh Hermerding - Split Rock Lighthouse
on: 2021-08-23 11:08:25

There are several of these plants to the left of Split Rock. Near where the winch that raised the stones to build the lighthouse used to be.

Posted by: GB - Bike path Warroad. Along roads in Roseau & Lake of the Woods
on: 2022-07-10 16:03:37

Can these be transplanted from highway ditches & city road sides to personal property legally? How could I get some legally for my yard?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-10 17:24:20

GB, please do not take plants from the wild, not even road ditches. Minnesota Wildflowers does not track who sells what but check native plant vendors. Several will ship plants.

Posted by: Diana - Bemidji
on: 2023-06-05 09:08:06

Found a clump of these on a DOT right of way near railroad tracks. Short, though, only ~14" tall (I'm sure they get mowed regularly - tough plants!). Details fit your description. Uploaded photos to iNaturalist.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-05 09:24:14

Diana, the location sounds more suitable for

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