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Prairie rose, also called "climbing rose," is a member of the Rosaceae (Rose) family. The rose family includes well-known species as diverse as garden roses, strawberries, apples, peaches, and blackberries. Roses typically have leaves with 3 to 9 leaflets, stems with hooked prickles (“thorns”) or bristles, and upright or arching stems (canes). Flowers have a base petal number of five, with many cultivated roses showing a hundred or more petals.
Prairie rose usually has three leaflets, but may have five. The stems are bright green to reddish green and clambering. They use adjacent vegetation and fences for support. They can reach more than 4 meters (approximately 13 feet) long. Flowers on prairie rose are about 6 to 8 centimeters (2.5 to 3 inches) across, with five light pink petals and a yellow center. Prickles are few and far apart on the stem. As the name suggests, prairie rose is a species of open lands occurring in and at the edge of prairies, woodlands and savannas, and in fencerows and thickets. It is sometimes found at the edge of forests. It is found from New York and New Hampshire south to Florida, west to Texas, north to Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ontario. Other native roses generally have 5 or 7 leaflets, are more heavily armed, have smaller flowers, and/or are more compact branching shrubs.
Range & Habitat: The native Prairie Rose occurs occasionally in northern Illinois and scattered counties elsewhere within the state (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies near the western range limit of this species in North America. Habitats include upland prairies, hill prairies, limestone glades, roadside embankments, areas along railroads, pastures, abandoned fields, and fence rows. This small shrub tends to increase in response to light or moderate grazing from cattle and other mammalian herbivores. This shrub is also well-adapted to occasional wildfires, as it is able to regenerate from its deep root system. Prairie Wild Rose Stems: It grows erect, on short multiple stems, little branched, from 2 to 4 feet high that are densely covered with prickles at the base of older stems and with sparse reddish prickles on newer wood. New wood is green but turns reddish to purpls-reddish quickly. Stems usually die back each year because of drought or freezing, but in a more moist environment, they will survive and grow up to 3 feet high. (Source: www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org)