The native dog rose (Rosa canina) is a familiar sight in our hedgerows, with its pale pink and white flowers, usually blooming from May through to August, providing a source of nectar for bees and beetles. It is well known for its scrambling nature; using its strongly hooked thorns to support and clamber its way up other hedgerow shrubs. The plant itself can grow from 1m to up to 5m tall where well supported.

In some years it is common to see a ball like shape with fibrous red threads within the plant’s leaf buds. This ball is known as a robin’s pincushion and is formed by a gall wasp.

In the autumn the dog rose produces jewel like bright red rosehips. The rosehip provides a vital food source throughout the hungry gap, often being eaten by birds such as blackbirds and small mammals such as bank voles. The hips are high in vitamin C and were traditionally used to make rosehip syrup in order to boost vitamin levels.

There are many theories for its name ‘dog’ rose, one being the root of the plant was thought to be able to cure the bite of a mad or wild dog. Other theories suggest that the word ‘dog’ is related to the shape of the plant’s hooked thorns, often resembling that of a dog’s canine.

Illustration by Joanna Uglow