As Shakespeare’s Juliet noted, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But a thorn by any other name would prick just as painfully, and roses aren’t meant to grow everywhere. The invasive multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) is a species whose lovely white flowers distract from its harmful effects on Fox Island’s habitats.
Multiflora rose is a vining shrub that is shade tolerant. That means it doesn’t need a lot of sunlight to grow, and it generally grows up onto other plants. Multiflora rose is also a monoecious plant, which is a fancy way of saying that can self-pollinate and it doesn’t need other members of its species to reproduce. One plant can make hundreds of thousands of seeds every year. And those seeds are contained in red berries that are easily consumed and dispersed by animals.
Multiflora rose is a significant problem not just at Fox Island, but also in other Indiana parks and preserves. Just like other invasive species like autumn olive and Japanese honeysuckle, you can find it growing in areas frequented by people: disturbed areas, at the edges of forest habitats, and along trails and roads. It grows thick. It was introduced from Asia in part for its flowers, and in part for its ability to form dense, impenetrable barriers.
It is hard to walk far in Fox Island without encountering multiflora rose. And it’s these walking encounters that can become a “thorny” issue. The stems of multiflora rose sprawl out in all directions. For plants that grow near trails, those stems will often extend into the middle of the trail. Since the vines are covered with thorns, walking into them on trail can be a painful experience! According to Fox Island naturalists, encounters with multiflora rose are one of the things they worry about most when school groups visit.
How will you know if you’re looking at multiflora rose? Look for those white flowers in late spring, those irresistible (for forest animals) red berries, and of course those long, thorn-covered stems. You are most likely to see multiflora rose at Fox Island along trails, roads, and at forest edges near the prairie and Bowman Lake.
Have you seen multiflora rose in Fox Island? Comment below and let us know when and where you saw it. And contact the park staff to see how you can get involved in removing it!
Ecological Landscape Alliance. (2019, March 20). Multiflora Rose: An Exotic Invasive Plant Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.ecolandscaping.org/07/invasive-plants/multiflora-rose-an-exotic-invasive-plant-fact-sheet/
Hilty, J. (2017). Multiflora Rose. Illinois Wildflowers. Retrieved from https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/multiflora_rose.htm
Interagency Taxonomic Information System. (2019). Rosa multiflora. Retrieved from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=24833
Ormiston, J. (2019, April). Personal interview.