Rosa Californica is the only rose in my garden that is native to California. It’s a fine plant, but tends to expand its territory through underground suckers.
When I came upon a healthy specimen of another rose identified as a California native, I grabbed it for my garden and worked to learn more about it and other California native roses.
I soon discovered that my new rose, R. multiflora, is an imposter! It is a native to Japan that has become naturalized in California and much of the U.S. In eastern North America, it is considered an invasive species, and even a “noxious weed” in grazing areas. Although it has many blossoms, it is most appreciated by goats.
Roses that are truly native to California typically have single pink flowers, varying degrees of fragrance, and spiny branches. They often are found near water sources. While they tolerate some drought and shade they grow best with ample moisture and sunlight. They can spread vigorously in hospitable circumstances, but are controllable with seasonal pruning.
Here are several species, in roughly north-to-south order.
- California Rose (R. Californica). Grows in much of California in chaparral, riparian and central oak woodland plant communities. Most widely grown native rose. This photo is from the website of the University of California, Santa Cruz Natural Reserves.
As a side note, the UCSC Natural Reserves program includes five sites, including one in Marina and one in Big Creek (south of Carmel). The five sites ring the Monterey Bay along the National Marine Sanctuary that extends the entire coastline from the Golden Gate at San Francisco south to Big Sur, between 38 and 36 degrees North latitude along roughly 122 degrees West longitude.The wide range of habitats, from fog-enshrouded redwood forest to maritime chaparral, provide an unparalleled natural laboratory for marine and terrestrial research and serve as study sites for University scientists and students.
- Ground Rose (R. spithamea). Native to central California from the San Luis Obispo area up into Mendocino and Humbolt and in the Sierras from Tulare to Yuba. Grows in chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities.
- Nootka Rose (R. nutkana). Grows in riparian areas in northern California and up to Alaska.
- Wood Rose (R. gymnocarpa). Grows from San Luis Obispo to northern California, and in other western states, and has large fragrant blossoms.
- Whiskey Rose (R. pinetorum). A relatively rare rose that has been spotted in northern California and in the Monterey area. Resembles R. gymnocarpa.
- Cluster Rose (R. pisocarpa). A fairly large plant, up to six feet high, with flowers in clusters near the top. Grows in northern California to British Columbia.
- Mountain Rose (R. woodsii ultramontane). Grows in high elevations east of the Sierras, and produces large numbers of very fragrant dark pink blossoms.
- Mojave Rose (R. woodsii glabrata). Grows near springs in the Mojave Desert. Similar to R. Californica.
- Baja Rose (R. minutifolia). Grows in Baja and the southern section of San Diego. It has very small leaves and bright pink flowers with prominent yellow stamens.
The information in this column was drawn largely from Wikipedia and the website of Las Pilates Nursery, a great source of information about California native plants.
This photo is from Suisun Marsh page of the California Department of Water Resources website. The photo shows Rosa Californica’s rampant growth and numerous rose hips. This plant can be controlled in a garden, through seasonal (and diligent) pruning.