Dog roses: meaning, myth and medicinal uses.

Lorienne Whittle, 30/04/2019

This climbing shrub is one of the most commonly spotted wild roses in the UK. In the summer months the pretty pink-white flowers pepper hedgerows, providing an important source of nectar for insects. Later in the year the bright red hips provide food for mammals and birds and are also collected by people to make rosehip syrup.


Identifying a dog rose (Rosa canina): 

  • This deciduous climbing shrub is part of the Rosaceae family
  • Most easily recognised by the pink or white flowers with five large petals
  • The flowers have a mild, sweet fragrance
  • Like many of the rose family, the dog rose has hooked thorns along the stems
  • The leaves are divided into 2-3 smaller paired leaflets
  • From August to October red oval shaped hips can be seen in small clusters. Each rosehip is 1-2cm and contains many hairy seeds.

Find out more about how both the flowers and the hips can be confused with other members of the Rosaceae family.


Flowering dog rose, Bruce Beattie/WTML

When and where to find dog rose: 

  • Flowers in May and June with the red hips ripening from August onwards.
  • Often seen climbing through hedgerows, as well as at the edge of woodlands, on scrubland and grassland. 


Dog rose scrambling through hedgerow, Madelaine Morris, Nature's Calendar recorder

Myth and medicinal uses

In both ancient Greek and Roman mythology roses are heavy associated with love and beauty. As such roses are a favoured symbol and popular as a tattoo. More recently the dog rose was chosen as the county flower of Hampshire.  

Archaeological finds have confirmed that, along with blackberries, rose hips were eaten as early as 2,000 BC. Reportedly called the dog rose due to the belief that the roots should be used if bitten by a rabid dog, this rose also goes by many other names. It is often called ‘wild rose’ but can be mixed up with other similar looking species. The prickly nature of the plant has also lent it to be called briar-rose and dog briar.

Whilst oranges and lemons are well known for their Vitamin C content, rose hips are the wild alternative in the UK, having been used to treat scurvy in the past. A sweet and tangy puree or syrup can be made from the autumn hips. Other reported medicinal uses of rose hip syrup include as a diuretic and a treatment for dysentery and gout. Rose hips are a ‘false-fruit’, left after the flower has died and the hairs inside the hips can be used to make itching powder.


Download our free dog rose desktop calendar

Desktop calendars

It is with regret that we have decided that May’s dog rose calendar will be the last available to download on the Nature’s Calendar website. As a charity we are always conscious of how our resources are best utilised and on investigation have found that there are relatively few downloads of the monthly calendar. We have therefore decided that the effort going into the design process would be better directed at other ways in which Nature’s Calendar recorders and the wider public are using the website.

We hope that you have enjoyed the desktop calendars as a monthly reminder of what can be recorded. Keep on track with which Nature's Calendar events to look out for at any time of the year with our handy downloadable phenology calendar.


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