Rosa arkansana (Prairie Rose)

Plant Info
Also known as: Wild Rose
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; fields, prairies, along roads, edges of woods
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:6 to 40 inches
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

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] 1 to 4 flowers typically form at tips of new, ground shoots and occasionally at tips of second year lateral branches of older woody stems. Flowers are 1½ to 2 inches across with 5 broad, rounded petals with wavy edges often notched at the tip. The color can range from nearly pure white to deep rose pink and often strongly bi-colored. Numerous yellow stamens surround the shorter styles in the center. The sepals are narrow lance-like, ½ to just under 1 inch long, rounded at the base, the outer surface smooth. Flower stalks are smooth.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and compound with 9 to 11 leaflets, occasionally 7. Leaflets are ¾ to 1¼ inches long and ½ to ¾ inch wide, generally elliptic or widest above the middle (obovate), rounded or blunt at the tip, with serrated edges except at the base. Leaf stalks are ½ to just over 1 inch long and hairy. 2 wing-like appendages (stipules) are at the base of the stalk, and sometimes have a few scattered glands around the edge of the tip end. Upper leaf surface is dark green and hairy to smooth, the underside light green and hairy.

[photo of stem] First year flowering stems are green turning red the following season, mostly simple, typically spreading to ascending. Lateral branches are produced on older woody stems and are weak and often don't flower. Both first and second year growth bear stiff, slender bristles of unequal size.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The round berry like fruits (rose hips) are about ½ inch in diameter, turning bright red in late summer.

[photo of seed] Inside the hips are several light brown seeds that are oval to egg-shaped, about 1/6 inch long, with a few long hairs at the ends and across the surface.


Prairie Rose establishes from seeds distributed by wildlife (typically birds) that have consumed its nourishing fruit. Once established, they spread out from underground rhizomes, often forming colonies. Above ground stems rarely persist for more than a few years before dying back to be replaced by new shoots. All three of Minnesota's native roses appear very similar at first glance. Two primary indicators for R. arkansana identification are its preference for open, sandy prairie and small size which rarely gets over 18 inches and more often just 10-12 inches. Like Prickly Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis) it has prickles on both new and old growth but it lacks the glands found on the leaf stalks of the latter, and their natural ranges barely overlap along a NW to SE line through central Minnesota. Prickly Rose is also a rather taller plant. Smooth Wild Rose (Rosa blanda) shares the range of R. arkansana throughout the state, but as it name suggests, Smooth Rose lacks bristles on its new growth—it's a mid-sized to tall shrub whose bristly, woody stems persist producing showers of flowers for many years.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Dakota and Wabasha counties.


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

Posted by: Heather - Fergus Falls
on: 2010-06-11 12:04:51

There are thousands of them growing along side Aurdal River Road, just about 4 miles east of Fergus Falls. I stopped to get a closer look because I've driven that road hundreds of times and never noticed them before. I was surprised because they are very cute little flowers. This website was so easy to use I found out what they were in seconds!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-06-11 16:32:53

Keep in mind there are 4 species of wild rose in MN all with similar flowers. You might have come across Rosa arkansana, or possibly Rosa blanda, which is even more common. Something you can check next time is the number of leaflets. R. blanda has 5-9, mostly 7. R. arkansana has 9 or 11 leaflets. R. blanda tends to grow over 3 feet tall, as well.

Posted by: Randy - Ft. Snelling State Park
on: 2011-07-30 18:27:52

There are several big clumps of wild roses on the banks of the Minnesota River in Ft. Snelling State Park. They are actually clinging to the river bank and reaching down to the water. The flowers have five petals and the plants are over 3 feet tall. They make a beautiful foreground attraction to a photo of the river.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-07-30 19:32:51

Randy, those may actually be Rosa blanda, which I often see in roadside ditches and near shorelines. We'll get all the wild roses up here eventually. :)

Posted by: Fran - Ramsey County, Arden Hills - Rice Creek Regional Park
on: 2019-06-23 22:33:18

I found a few of these plants this week just off the walking/bike path in the former Arden Hills Arsenal. Soil is quite sandy in this area.

Posted by: Michael Hilson - Crystal
on: 2020-05-06 19:48:25

Are there any parks in the West metro that would have Rosa arkansana wild roses? I haven't seen too many around.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-06 20:44:46

Michael, I can't say for certain but there may be some at Crow Hassen in Hennepin County.

Posted by: Mary Duffey
on: 2022-06-21 09:00:07

Is Rosa Arkansa or Blanda a good replacement plant for invasive plants like asian honeysuckle?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-21 09:09:00

Mary, beware that wild roses will spread and will require some management to keep them in check. If your desire is to replace honeysuckle with something better behaved, roses are probably not a good choice. Check to see what other shrubs are native to your area to find a good match for your particular soil and light conditions.

Posted by: Teri Pederson - Southern Mn.
on: 2022-07-16 10:31:18

Is there a reason why you don't see wild roses in the ditches anymore?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-18 09:58:41

Teri, there are probably multiple reasons why you don't see any particular native plant in road ditches any more, but two common reasons are likely the takeover by invasive species, and herbicide spraying to keep said invasives in check, though that doesn't seem to be especially successful. Sad.

Posted by: Kat - Rural western
on: 2023-08-30 19:52:04

I would love to see some wild prairie roses in my ditches. They are plentiful about a mile down the road, and they are taking soo long to reach us! Would it work to spread collected rose hips in my ditch? Thanks!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-08-30 20:00:14

Kat, just be aware that rose seeds can take a couple years to germinate so if you toss some hips in your ditch you probably won't see any change for a while.

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