The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Trees & Shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

Smooth Rose

Common Name
Smooth Rose (Early Wild Rose, Meadow wild rose, Labrador Rose)


Scientific Name
Rosa blanda Aiton.


Plant Family
Rose (Rosaceae)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Early Summer Flowering



There are six species of wild perennial rose on the current Garden Census. Details of each are given in comparison chart referenced below. Smooth Rose will be frequently encountered.

Stems: It grows erect, 1 to 3+ feet high, with little branching and mostly without thorns, except on the bases on old stems - which is where the name "smooth rose" comes from.

Leaves are pinnate with 5 to 9 (usually 7) elliptic to ovate leaflets with coarse teeth. Larger leaves on new growth can have an extra pair of smaller leaflets below the other leaflets. Teeth do not go all the way to the base of the leaf. Each leaflet has either a very short stalk or no stalk but the terminal leaflet has a longer stalk. The leaf has a stipule, with two elongated flaring teeth, at the base where it joins the stem. The stipule, particularly the margin, and lower leaf stalk may have glandular hair.

Flowers appear on branches of new wood from last years side branch buds, either as solitary flowers or in a cluster of up to 5 (a corymb) at the tip of the new branch. The central bud of a cluster opens first. The hypanthium is ovoid or globose with 5 long-pointed sepals which usually have stipitate-glandular hair on the outside surface. The flowers are 1-1/2 to 2-1/3 inches wide when open and have very short pedicels (stalks). The 5 petals are pink with streaks of darker color. In the center of the 5 petals there are numerous stamens with white filaments and yellow anthers surrounding a short, but wide column of yellow to orange pistils rising from 32 to 55 carpels. The sepals persist on the rose hip and become erect once the petals fall.

Seed: The flowers mature into a round reddish rose hip containing a number of achenes (the seeds). Wild Rose seeds should be sown outside in the Fall. They will germinate in the 2nd year as they need a cold moist period followed by a warm moist period followed by another cold moist period. If seed has been stored for the proper sequence of periods then it should be scarified before planting. Fall planted fresh seeds should not be scarified. While seed is cheap, bare root plants are usually available from native plant nurseries.


Habitat: Smooth Rose grows from a crown, preferring full sun in meadows, prairies and dry hillsides. There is some variation in the species in flower size, color, and the amount of prickles; also a number of roses that were once classed as separate varieties of this species have been consolidated into this species allowing for significant variation between plants.

Names: The genus Rosa, is from the Latin for 'rose'. The species name blanda, is from the Latin blandus which has meanings such as 'mild' and charming', and refers here to the lovely flower of this species. The author name for the plant classification, of 1789, - ‘Aiton.’ - is for William Aiton (1731-1793, Scottish botanist, succeeded Philip Miller as superintendent of the Chelsea Physic Garden and then became director of Kew Gardens, where he published Hortus Kewensis, the Garden’s catalogue of plants.

Comparisons: This species has many of the characteristics of several other wild roses. See this comparison chart of the six species of wild rose in the Garden.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

plant drawing

Above: An example of a large bushy Smooth Rose. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

Below: A pink flower typical of Smooth Rose with numerous stamens with yellow anthers and a central column of yellow pistils. Flowers are single or in small clusters at the tip on new growth from last years branches.

Smooth Rose flower Smooth Rose cluster

Below: The leaf of smooth rose has 5 to 7 leaflets but some new growth (2nd photo) will be seen with 2 additional leaflets below the upper ones.

Smooth Rose Leaf Smooth Rose leaf

Below: 1st photo - The underside (below right) is lighter color and slightly fuzzy. 2nd photo - the reproductive parts consist of numerous stamens and pistils.

Smooth Rose leaf underside stamens and pistils

Below: 1st photo - The long stalk of the leaf ends at the branch with a stipule that has two elongated flaring teeth. The example shown has glandular hair on the edges, as does the leaf stalk. 2nd photo - Prickles are mostly absent on the upper stems but old wood near the base can be prickled. 3rd photo - The hips of Smooth Rose with the remains of the sepals.

Smooth Rose Leaf stipule Smooth Rose Thorns Smooth Rose hips
Smooth Rose plant


Notes: Smooth Rose is the only rose that Eloise Butler notes as indigenous to the Garden area. She noted it in her Garden Log on April 29, 1907. Then on Oct. 15 1915, she reported planting 400 plants obtained from the Park Board Nursery and several more in 1919 from Lutsen, MN and then more plants in 1922, '23, '24, and '27. Martha Crone planted it in 1948. In Minnesota the plant is found in most counties with only 7 exceptions. In North America it ranges in the U. S. from Montana and the Dakotas eastward and as far south as Kansas and Missouri. In Canada it is found in most provinces except British Columbia and the Yukon.

Five species of wild rose are recognized as being native to Minnesota, R. acicularlis, R. blanda, R. arkansana, R. woodsii and a cross between R. woodsii and R. blanda known as Rosa ×dulcissima Lunell (pro sp.) [blanda × woodsii]

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.