Plant of the day: California rose

This wild rose is a favorite sight in spring and summer, as pink blossoms give way to ripe red fruit. This is the California rose (or as it is conversely known in Latin, Rosa californica), which grows in nearly every county in California, as well as in parts of Oregon.

This hardy shrub can look scraggly, but also can be groomed into a good garden plant, with pale green leaves and colorful fruit and flowers. It grows to 8 feet tall but is usually smaller. The tangle of thorny branches make excellent shelter for birds, and I’ve spotted many a nest by peering into a wild rose bush.

Rose hips are a renowned source of Vitamin C, and you can make an immune-boosting tea just by pouring boiling water over the red fruit. The hips can also be eaten fresh, though the inner bit is unappetizing, filled with seeds and strange stiff hairs. But the thin outer layer of flesh is tasty–I usually eat it by splitting the fruit open with a fingernail and scraping out the seeds. But this is labor intensive, and rose hips were never a significant food source for Native Americans. There was some medicinal use, though. A tea of wild rose hips was used to treat fever, sore throats and stomach aches–as well as to wash sores and sooth the pain of babies.

There are several different kinds of wild roses in California, and they all look fairly similar. The California rose (according to the Marin Flora) has the brown remains of its sepals at the tip of its ripe hips, and also tiny hairs visible on the stems of its leaves. It grows in full sun and partial shade, and in both wet and dry areas.

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Filed under Edible, Good for gardens, Medicinal, Plant of the day

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