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What is a Nootka Rose?

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  • Written By: O. Parker
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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The Nootka rose is a wild variety of rose native to the western United States and Canada. It is a member of the rosaceae family of flowering plants. The scientific name is Rosa nutkana. Unlike complex multi-petal hybrid roses, the flowers of the Nootka rose are a simple arrangement of five petals. The stalks are thorny and grow into tangled thickets that spread aggressively when left untended. The fruits have many uses as food and medicine.

The native range of the Nootka rose extends from Alaska through British Columbia into Washington state, Oregon and northern California. To the east, the native range extends into Utah and Colorado. The flower is named for its place of first discovery, Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This wild rose grows in meadows, open woodlands, and mountainous regions at moderate elevation.

The Nootka rose is a perennial shrub that grows from 2 feet to 13 feet (0.6 m to 4 m) tall, though 10 feet (about 3 m) is the most common height of wild shrubs. Left untended or in a wild environment, the Nootka rose grows into a rambling, tangled thicket with stalks that are covered in sharp thorns. The excessively thorny stalks have earned this rose the alternate name of "bristly rose." The plant spreads aggressively from underground roots that grow laterally, producing a new shoot.

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The flowers bloom in the height of summer in shades of pink, pale purple, and soft white. The simple five-petal flowers are about 2 inches to 3 inches (5 cm to 7 cm) wide and each prickly stalk commonly has two or three flowers clustered together at the tip. The flowers of the Nootka rose attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and pollinating insects. The fruits, also called rose hips, ripen in the fall and stay on the bush into winter. The large rose hips are dark red and from 0.5 inch to 1 inch (about 0.5 cm to 2 cm) across.

In a domestic setting, the Nootka rose will thrive in full sun to partial shade and slightly acidic, clay soil conditions. Planted along a border or fence line, the thorny branches create a nearly impenetrable and attractive barrier. The delicate petals are used fresh in salads, desserts, and teas. Dried, the fragrant petals are use in potpourri or other arrangements. The edible fruits are rich in vitamin C and used in tea, medicinal preparations, and food.

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