The Friends of the Wildflower Garden, Inc.

Trees & Shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States


Common Name
Climbing Rose (Illinois Rose, Prairie Rose)


Scientific Name
Rosa setigera Michx.


Plant Family
Rose (Rosaceae)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Early Summer Flowering



There are six species of wild rose on the current Garden Census. Details of each are given in a comparison table referenced below. Rosa setigera is not native to the state of Minnesota but is found in nearby Wisconsin and Iowa.

Stems are erect but try to arch over to reach the ground and root, often arching across other plants and can reach up to 12 feet in length. Stems have a few short, stubby thorns that are slightly curved; they are not numerous.

The alternate leaves consist of 3 ovate to lanceolate leaflets (sometimes 5 on older stems) with pointed tips; they are sharply toothed and shining on the upper side with conspicuous veins. The underside is pale in color with fine hair, sometimes stipitate-glandular. At the base of each leaf are two distinctive winged stipules. The stipule surface is hairless but both the stipule margins and the leaf stalks can have stipitate-glandular hair.

The flowers -up to 3 inches wide - are usually pink but can be whitish, and occur in a small cluster on this year's stems. R. setigera is unique among North American native roses in the flowers are functionally unisexual - either separated by sex (monoecious) on the same plant or on separate plants (dioecious). Functionally male flowers have numerous stamens with gold colored anthers. Functionally female flowers have styles in the center of the flower that form a slender column - different from the native wild roses which have a dome shaped receptacle. These rise from 20 to 25 carpels. There is a conspicuous gland directly under the flower bud. It and the sepals usually have glandular hair.

Seed: The flowers mature into roundish rosy-red rose hips with the darker remains of the pistils forming a dark clump at the apex. The sepals, unlike the other native wild roses, have dropped away by this time. Inside the hip are the numerous achenes, the true 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: This species grows in full or partial sun in fertile soil. Excess moisture is detrimental.

Names: The alternate common names of this rose can be confusing especially when found with the name "Prairie Rose" - which can cause confusion with Rosa arkansana which is more properly called "Prairie Rose" or "Prairie Wild Rose". The genus Rosa is the Latin word for 'rose'. The species setigera means 'having bristles', i.e. the glandular hair. The author name for the plant classification, ‘Michx.’ refers to Andre Michaux (1746-1802), French botanist who made many exploring expeditions in the U.S. collecting and cataloging many species. Two important works of his are the Histoire des chênes de l'Amérique septentrionale (1801 - Oaks of North America), and the Flora Boreali-Americana (2 vols., 1803. This was published posthumously and contained the description of this species). His son Francois, traveled with him and the father’s notes were later used for the 3-volume North American Sylva, for which Thomas Nuttall provided some supplements.

Comparisons: 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.

Prairie Rose Rose group

Above: 1st photo - The flower clusters of Climbing Rose.

Below: 1st photo - There are numerous stamens with gold colored anthers. The pistils in the center form a slender column. Only one or the other are functional as the flowers are unisexual. 2nd photo - Note the glandular hair on the buds and sepals.

flower closeup Climbing Rose sepals

Below: 1st photo - The small thorns that occur usually at the stem nodes. 2nd photo - The typical leaf of three leaflets with conspicuous veins and the small winged stipules toward the base of the leaf.

Prairie rose Stem Climbing Rose Leaf

Below: 1st photo - A cluster of hips in autumn; with the dark remains of the pistils, they are attractive. Sepals are not persistent on the hips in this species, which is unique in North American roses. 2nd photo R. setigera tends to arch over so the stems can root. Without some object or other vegetation to climb on, the plant will sprawl like this example, however, that could be a nice ground cover.

Climbing Rose Hips Climbing Rose Plant

Below: 1st photo - The winged stipules at the base of the leaf stem which help identify this rose. 2nd photo - The underside of the leaf has very fine hair. 3rd photo - Leaves formed on older wood can have five leaflets.

Leaf stipule - rosa setigera Rosa setigera leaf underside rosa setigera young leaf
Climbing rose


Notes: Climbing Rose is not native to Minnesota but is an introduction from certain parts of the Eastern United States where it is native. It has established itself in the wild in most states east of the central plains except Minnesota and the Dakotas. Eloise Butler first planted it in 1915 when she obtained 25 plants from the Park Board Nursery. It was not noted on the 1951 or 1986 census but Gardener Cary George planted it again in 1994. 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.