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by Jeanne Nevard


This is the eighth in a series on invasive plants. The Pepperell Garden Club has designated this as “Invasives Awareness Year.” Please clip out & keep for your reference.

Childhood memories bring back fond recollections of summer bike rides coasting full-speed downhill, drinking in the scents of summer — the wild roses intermingled with honeysuckle. Unfortunately, these rogue roses and the Asian honeysuckles are not native. As with most invasive species, they have assaulted our environs & crowded out the native plants.

The multiflora roses create monocultures of dense tangles of shrubby thickets, while overtaking the native plant culture comprised of a beautiful diversity of various species that co-exist, sustaining our wildlife. In addition, many species of birds and mammals feed on the invasive rose hips, wrap the seeds in a package of fertilizer and successfully disperse the seeds.

Multiflora rose is native to Asia and was first introduced to North America in 1866 as rootstock for ornamental roses. During the mid-1900s, it was widely planted as a “living fence” for livestock control.

* Multi-stemmed, thorny, perennial shrub grows up to 15 feet tall. The wide, arching canes are round in cross section and have stiff, curved thorns.

* Small, fragrant, white to pinkish, 5-petaled flowers occur abundantly in clusters in the spring.

* Leaves are pinnately compound with 7-9 leaflets. Leaflets are oblong, 1 to 1.5 inches long and have serrated edges.

* The fringed petioles of multiflora rose usually distinguish it from most other rose species. The petiole is the stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem.

* Fruit are small, round to oval, quarter-inch in size, reddish orange rose hips that remain through the winter. Individual plants may produce up to 500,000 seeds per year! Most seedlings emerge near the parent plant from which the seeds fell.

* The canes root easily in contact with the soil


Multifora rose forms impenetrable thickets in pastures, fields and forest edges. It restricts human, livestock, and wildlife movement and displaces and smothers native vegetation. As with most invasives, seed is spread by birds and wildlife. The plant is found in old fields, pastures, roadsides and forests. It can live in a wide range of soil and environmental conditions, but thrives in sunny areas with well-drained soils. It is not found in standing water or extremely dry habitats.


Introduced from Japan in 1886 as rootstock for cultivated roses, planting of multiflora rose was encouraged by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service beginning in the 1930s to curb soil erosion. The nursery industry also touted the shrub as a “living fence,” to control livestock and create snow barriers along highways. It was promoted by wildlife managers, as late as the 1960s, as an excellent source of food and cover for wildlife. Due to its dense growing habits, it has become a serious problem in the eastern United States and occurs throughout the U.S. Multiflora rose has naturalized in most of the northeastern and midwestern United States. By law, multiflora rose is considered a nuisance weed, and cannot be sold or propagated.


* Plants can be pulled in spring. Use a weed wrench on large plants. Some re-sprout will probably occur.

* Repeated cutting 3-6 times a growing season for several years can be effective.

* Can spray foliage with 5 percent Glyphosate (Round-up). It is best to cut larger stems in late summer, immediately followed by 25 percent Glyphosate painted on (use Rodeo if in a wetland).

* Only apply chemicals a day or two after rain and during a dry period with no rain forecasted for a few days after the application. Spray may be applied until October.

* Apply the chemical carefully. Remember that more is not better and that Roundup kills plants indiscriminately. Therefore, use a directed spray.

* Follow-up monitoring is necessary because new plants may arise from root fragments or previously dormant seeds.

* Using a mix of approaches works best.


The New England Wild Flower Society is assessing the impacts of invasive exotic species on the New England landscape and engaging in projects to combat the spread of these species. Invasive plant species are among the greatest threats to the integrity of natural areas. Not just pushy garden thugs, invasive plant species disrupt natural habitats; impacting native plant species and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates.

And finally, here is why you should care:

Invasives are will take over our landscapes rapidly, if nothing is done to recognize and control it. The evidence is obvious when you see the variety of plants that keep our woods beautiful and healthy, decimated by invasives. Insects, birds, field and forest animals all the way up the food chain, require diverse habitats to survive.

It is our collective responsibility to take care of it now, before it becomes nearly insurmountable. By spreading the word to your family, friends and neighbors to deal with the multiflora rose, even a small section, our native plants will have a chance to come back.

One of my neighbors has been consistently, removing invasives from their property. Plants that grew over 50 years ago, some antique roses and other choice perennials planted by their aunts, now have a chance to thrive. By eradicating the brute invasives, those desirable plants now receive much needed air and light to bloom once again. It has become a historic garden restoration project. Their industrious efforts have really paid off with the added benefit of beautifying our street for all to enjoy. I can now stroll there and breathe in the fragrant old-fashioned roses that are superior in color, form and fragrance to the weedy ones.

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