Bulletin #2509, Maine Invasive Plants: Multiflora Rose, Rambler Rose, Rosa multiflora (Rose Family)

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Bulletin #2509, Maine Invasive Plants: Multiflora Rose, Rambler Rose, Rosa multiflora (Rose Family)

Developed by the Maine Natural Areas Program and University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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Threats to Native Habitats

Multiflora Roses (photos by the Maine Natural Areas Program, and John A. Lynch, courtesy of the New England Wild Flower Society)

Multiflora rose is an aggressive colonizer of open unplowed land and is highly successful on forest edges. This prolific seed producer can create extremely dense, impenetrable thickets that crowd out other vegetation and inhibit regrowth of native plants. Associated vegetation of multiflora rose thickets is often limited to a few tree stems that have managed to overtop the rose before the thicket developed. Dense stands of multiflora rose can slow down forest regeneration: the species can dominate a forest understory. Anyone who has attempted to traverse a thicket of this plant would have few kind words for it, as its interweaving, abundantly-thorned branches snag on clothes and hair and can be quite painful. Large populations are sometimes associated with former plantings, but the plant has naturalized throughout much of the United States and continues to be spread with the help of birds.


Multiflora rose is a robust perennial shrub with thorny arching stems. It has alternately arranged compound leaves, generally with seven or nine leaflets. It forms large clusters of fragrant white or pink flowers that bloom from June to July. Like other roses, it forms small red pulpy fruits called hips, which may be eaten by birds. It reproduces from seeds or by rooting at the tip of arching stems that touch the ground. It can be distinguished from native roses by its long arching stems and numerous small white flowers or hips depending on the season. To verify the identity of this plant contact a natural resources professional.


Multiflora rose prefers old fields, fencerows, power lines, roadsides, and forest edges. In other parts of its range, it is successful in the understory of hardwood forests. It tolerates both moist and relatively dry conditions.


Multiflora Roses (photos by the Maine Natural Areas Program, and John A. Lynch, courtesy of the New England Wild Flower Society)

Multiflora rose is native to eastern Asia. It was brought to North America in the late nineteenth century to be used in horticultural plantings. Since then it has been widely planted for a variety of reasons, including wildlife food and cover, erosion control, and as a living fence to border properties or pen livestock. Its use was historically advocated by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and by some state conservation departments. Multiflora rose is now naturalized (established and reproducing in the wild) throughout much of the United States. In Maine, it is documented in Oxford, Waldo, and York Counties, but likely occurs in more.


The best method of controlling multiflora rose is to prevent it from becoming established in the first place. It should be removed as soon as possible if it is found colonizing an area. Repeated mowing — at least six cuts per year near the ground for two or more years—can successfully eliminate light infestations. In areas where thickets have formed, it may be necessary to use a bulldozer to remove the plants. Coarse mechanical removal by bulldozer or otherwise must be followed by removal of root sprouts or new growth from the seedbank if reinfestation is to be prevented. The herbicides glyphosate and triclopyr are also effective. Use a 2% solution of glyphosate or triclopyr mixed with a 0.5% surfactant, and thoroughly wet the leaves. To aid in the absorption of the herbicide apply when temperatures are greater than 65 degrees F. Herbicides can also be used in combination with mechanical treatments or as a follow-up to a burn. Consult a licensed herbicide applicator before applying herbicides over large areas.


Josselyn Botanical Society of Maine. 1995. Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Maine, Third Revision. Orono, ME: Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station.

Eckardt, N. 1987. Element Stewardship Abstract for Rosa multiflora. Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the International Network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers. Natural Heritage Databases.

Smith, C.L. 1998. Exotic Plant Guidelines. Raleigh, North Carolina: Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation.

Gleason, H.A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. New York: New York Botanical Garden.

For more information or for a more extensive list of references on invasive species contact:

Don Cameron
Department of Conservation
#93 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0093


Matt Wallhead
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
495 College Avenue
Orono, ME 04469

Maine Department of Conservation logoMaterials developed by the Maine Natural Areas Program for use by University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This fact sheet was made possible by a gift from New England Grows.

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© 2001

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