I’ve been enjoying the delightful flavor of fresh wild rose petals while exploring the wilderness areas around Portland lately, especially the sun-drenched places near the Sandy River Delta. Wild roses have far fewer petals than ornamental ones, but they do have some things in common: they’re pink, they smell the same, they have thorns, and their leaves are similar (compound leaves with many rounded leaflets, all with serrated edges). The variety pictured is most likely Rosa nutkana.
Flowers in the rose family have five petals and many stamens in the center. Ornamental roses got their additional petals through selective breeding that turned those numerous stamens into petals, according to botany author Thomas Elpel. Worldwide, there are 3,000 species in the rose family. They include such familiar fruits as blackberry, raspberry and strawberry.
In the fall, the rose plants — both native and ornamental — shed their flowers and develop seeds surrounded by flesh, which are fruits known as rose hips. Rose hips are also edible, and many people dry them for tea and enjoy the flavor as well as the extra Vitamin C. Rose hips can also be eaten raw, although it’s a lot more palatable to slice them open and remove the numerous seeds inside of them first. If you’ve got my book, “Dandelion Hunter,” then you’ve seen a recipe for turning them into a cranberry sauce substitute, which I highly recommend!
Rose petals are also medicinal, in that they are topically bacteriostatic, meaning they inhibit bacteria from multiplying. Out in the field, if you got a cut or a wound of some kind, rose petals could be used as a nice wilderness bandage to prevent infection.
Plants can heal us on many levels, not just the physical. When I approach this plant in a Reiki trance and tap into the plant-spirit perspective, I find that it is an extremely high-vibrational herb whose essence is unconditional love. It makes a lot of sense, then, that rose has this association in our culture with love, as well as romance, kindness, and the heart.
Learn many more wild plants of spring on my Search Plants! page.