Plant of the month: Rosa Californica

By Jonathan Martinez 

While some flowers are dormant in the colder seasons, the California rose (Rosa californica), from the Rosacea family, brings a bright pink pigmentation of beauty to spring. This wild rose is native to California and can be found along the west coast up to Oregon.

This wild rose typically grows naturally near stream banks in moist areas below 4,800 ft. elevation. However, as a California native, it is drought tolerant and can withstand heavy soils that are hard on other native plants. California rose enjoys a very long blooming season, flowering from spring to summer, and is enjoyable and easy to grow. The ideal time to plant is late fall, to allow winter and spring rains to establish its roots. Being a native plant, once established, it will require little water to maintain and is considered a hardy plant withstanding temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

California rose features five pink petals about 1-2 inches in size, numerous yellow stamens, and stands 5 feet tall when mature. This rose is beneficial because its roots help stabilize the soil, and its pink flowers attract many species of pollinators including birds, bees, and the mourning cloak butterfly.  It tends to form a dense thicket as it grows, which shelters small critters and provides a habitat value.

At first glance, it might seem like just a pretty flower, with its innocent and beautiful features, but there is much more than meets the eye. It contains a high vitamin C content and was used in World War ll to treat scurvy due to vitamin C deficiencies. The rose hips (fruit buds) are said to contain more calcium, vitamin C, iron, and phosphorus than oranges. For tea lovers, you can dry the hips and steep in boiled water for 10-15 minutes, or you could use it to make a sauce or jelly. Although, if left alone, these hips also provide a valuable food source for native birds and wildlife populations.

The next time you take a walk near a local creek or park, keep an eye out for this magnificent beauty. But don’t forget, it does have thorns so be careful!

For tips on growing plants that are disease and pathogen free, and protecting them from pests, see guidance here and here.

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