Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Multiflora rose is a stout, diffusely branched shrub (10-50 cm tall, occasionally reaching 3 m in height and 6.5 m in diameter). It has few to numerous stems arising from the base. These stems are highly branched (3-4 m long), erect and arching to sprawling, and armed with numerus stout, recurved prickles. The twigs are red to green (1.5 mm in diameter), glabrous, and armed. The trunk bark is grayish-brown to brown and smooth. The leaves are odd-pinnately compound (8-11 cm long) and placed alternately. The five to 11 leaflets are ovate to oblong (2-5.4 cm long and 1.3-2.3 cm wide), the tips are obtuse to acuminate, margins are serrate with five to eight teeth per cm, and the upper leaf surface is glabrous above and slightly pubescent on the underside. Petioles are 1-1.3 cm long, and the stipules are often glandular. Flowers occur in densely to sparsely flowered panicles (8-15 cm long), each with six to 30 flowers. Peduncles (1-1.5 cm long) are pubescent, glandular, and with one to two bracts at the base. The hypanthium is glabrous to pubescent. Calyx is five-lobed. The lobes are oval to lanceolate (7-10 mm long), pubescent, reflexed, and appressed to the hypanthium. The five petals are white to pinkish, obovate (7-10 mm long and 8.5-9.5 mm wide), and truncate. Stamens are numerous and attached to the rim of the hypanthium. The fruit is an achene. The achenes are enclosed in a smooth reddish hypanthium (6.8-8.5 mm long and 6-8 mm wide). This fruiting accessory is commonly called a hip. The achenes are flattened, oval to obovoid (4-4.5 mm long and 2-2.6 mm wide), and yellowish to tan.
Multiflora rose is native to Japan, Korea, and portions of China. It was introduced into the east coast of North America, via Japan, as an ornamental. The use of multiflora rose remained as an ornamental until the 1930s when the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formally the Soil Conservation Service) promoted its use for erosion control and as a living fence. This recommendation, which continued for many years, was supplemented by a number of state conservation agencies who supported the planting of this species for wildlife cover and food. Multiflora rose was planted along highways as crash barriers and to reduce headlight glare. Currently, it is found in much of the warmer parts of the United States with the exception of the desert portions of Nevada and California and the southeastern coastal plains. Plants in the northern regions show poor vigor due to limited cold tolerance. It has now become common in roadsides, pastures, woodlands, prairies, fields, power line corridors, tree strips, and old farmsteads. It sometimes creates impenetrable thickets or completely takes over entire pastures.
Multiflora rose apparently has a wide tolerance of soils and environmental conditions. It will tolerate heavy claypans and will grow in coarser textured sandy to gravelly soils. However, it does not grow as well in wet soils. Based on the distribution of multiflora rose, it appears that temperature is the main limiting factor. One study correlated poor plant vigor with two successive growing periods with high precipitation.
The plants flower from May through June, with fruits developing in late summer. The fruits are enclosed in a fleshy hypanthium that provides food for numerous species of birds. Germination is enhanced by passing through the digestive tract of birds. Thus, birds serve as the primary dispersal mechanism for the seeds. Uneaten hips will eventually dry and split to release the seed. The seed has a long viability. Germination is also enhanced by stratification. Seedlings will begin to appear within 60 days if the soil surface remains warm. Seedlings will grow unnoticed for 1 to 2 years as a low trailing stem at ground level. The species is deeply rooted and will resprout. It will sprout at the stem tips if they come in contact with the soil.
An intermediate number of multiflora rose plants occur at Effigy Mounds National Monument (EFMO) combining to cover an area of less than 5 hectares. These plants are found in mid-successional sites disturbed between 11 and 50 years ago. Multiflora rise was found in the forested areas of the South Unit. It has the potential to invade and modify existing native plant communities and poses a threat to the parks' primary successional resources. Also, it has a significant negative visual impact on the vegetation of EFMO.
An important consideration prior to using any control method is to determine if enough plants of desirable species are present to replace multiflora rose. If desired vegetation is scarce or absent control will be of little value. Seeds of multiflora rose have the potential to remain viable in the seed bank for 2 to 3 years. Only a few sources of new propagules surround EFMO. Multiflora rose will resprout and requires retreatment for effective control.
If a good cover of native grasses remains, repeated mowings will prevent spread of multiflora rose, but will not eradicate it. July is the best time for mowing. Bulldozing, chaining, or brush hogging is often necessary to knock down large well established plants. Hand cutting or grubbing is only feasible for controlling new infestations or following other control measures. Cultivation effectively controls this species.
Research on the use of prescribed fire to control multiflora rose does not appear in the literature, however research has been conducted on the use of fire on McCartney rose (Rosa bracteata Wendl.), a similar exotic pasture species found in the southeastern United States. Burning of McCartney rose with head fires at 2- to 3-month intervals controlled 90% of the plants. However, regrowth resumed within 2 weeks. A further study on McCartney rose combined cutting and stacking of rose stems, chemical treatment of regrowth and seedlings, and followed with prescribed fire for effective control.
Various chemical treatments have been tested on multiflora rose with mixed success. Many herbicides are not specific to multiflora rose or may not be specifically licensed for this use. It is important to read and follow all herbicide label directions. Roundup (glyphosate) mixed at either 1 or 2% V/V ratios and applied in June gave 95 to 100% control. Other studies with Roundup gave 25 to 100% control. Garlon (triclopyr) applied at various rates provided between 75 and 100% control. Krenite S (fosamine) typically gave lower control following spring applications, but control improved following application at heavier rates in August. Spike (tebuthiuron) produced good control throughout the growing season at most rates. Banvel (dicamba) gave the best control when used as a foliar spray, and only fair control when applied to the soil. Tordon (picloram), either foliar or soil applied, gave good control throughout the early growing season. Ally (metsulfuron) applied to the foliage provided good control at most treatment levels. Spotgun treatments with Ally gave adequate control of this species.
Biological control of multiflora rose has potential. The European rose chalcid (Megastigmus aculeatus Swederus) [Hymenoptera: Torymida] is a seed wasp that destroys the achenes within the hips. Rose rosette disease or witches' broom is typified by rapid stem elongation, breaking of axillary buds, leaflet deformation, and bright red pigmentation of the leaflets. This disease is fatal to nearly all roses. The causative agent has yet to be identified, although the eriophid mite (Phyllocopte fructiphilus Koch) is believed to be the transmittal agent. Other species that hold promise as biological control agents are the rose hip borer (Grapolita packerdi Zeller), which consumes the hypanthium of the hips; and the raspberry cane borer (Oberea bimaculata Oliv.), which kills the canes (stems). Use of most of these as biological control agents will probably be limited because of the lack of specificity to multiflora rose and the potential for damage to native and ornamental roses.
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