Native California Roses

copyright Barbara Ertter, 2001
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Rosa nutkanaPresl var. nutkana
"Nootka Rose"

Description Distribution Discussion Horticultural Notes Nomenclature Links

commonly forming thickets in coastal prairies flowers mostly solitary, large, hips large, sepals with elongated tips prickles often very many, thick-based hips (more commonly globose) can be with or without stalked glands in same population

DESCRIPTION: Loose shrub to thicket, generally 5--20 dm tall. Stem generally black or grayish; prickles few to many, the larger generally flattened and thick-based, straight. Leaf 5--10 cm long; stipule margins glandular; leaflets 2--3(4) per side, sparsely hairy and glandular; terminal leaflet 15--50 mm long, widely elliptic, the base generally rounded, the tip obtuse, leaf-margins single- to double-toothed, glandular. Inflorescence generally 1(--4)-flowered; pedicels generally 10--20 mm long, glabrous or glandular. Flower: body of hip in flower generally 5--7 mm wide, glabrous or stalked-glandular, neck of hip 3--6 mm wide; sepals generally glandular, entire, sepal-tip generally longer than sepal-body, toothed; petals generally 18--25 mm long; pistils > 10 in number. Hip 10--15 mm wide, most often globose, glabrous or stalked-glandular, neck 4--7 mm wide, sepals persistent or detaching irregularly. n = 21. Blooming April to July (December). Edge of coastal marshes and inland clearings, below 700 m elev.

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California is the southern end of the range of the Nootka rose, which was described from Nootka Sound, Alaska. Although reported in The Jepson Manual as occurring only as far south as Mendocino County ("w NW"), the Nootka rose has now been verified from coastal marshes in Marin and San Luis Obispo counties as well, perhaps intergrading with R. californica. It is most recognizable as a coastal species, forming dense thickets at the edge of marshes, but it also extends inland in a more diffuse form of uncertain taxonomic significance, intergrading with R. pisocarpa. Many native populations are being displaced by Himalayan blackberry, most noticeably in coastal areas.

Additional distributional representations available from links at entry for this species in the Jepson Interchange for On-Line Floristics

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DISCUSSION: The coastal extreme of Rosa nutkana has the most vicious prickles of all the native California roses: thick-based, straight, and often very dense. Flowers, the largest of all native species in California, are often solitary, with relatively large ovaries and hips. Forms with hips that are either glabrous or covered with stalked glands can be found in the same populations, and accordingly do not appear to be taxonomically significant. The distinctly toothed, expanded sepal tips are relatively diagnostic, tending to be more prominent than in other native California species (except R. pisocarpa).

The coastal form as found in California is the typical variety, var. nutkana. A second form, which is less prickly and glandular overall, is generally treated as occurring primarily east of the Cascade Ranges beyond the borders of California. This interior form, called var. hispida, var. muriculata, or R. spaldingii, is not treated as occurring in California in The Jepson Manual, but populations in the upper Sacramento River drainage might prove to represent this form. Other populations occurring inland from the immediate coast (photo below) also deserve closer analysis.

Inland plant from forest understory with paired, relatively slender prickles, smaller flowers and hips

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HORTICULTURAL NOTES: The horticultural value of the relatively large flowers of the Nootka rose is counterbalanced by the extreme prickliness, unless one is also looking for a good barrier plant.

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NOMENCLATURE: In contrast to the situation in most other native California roses, there does not appear to be any taxonomic significance in glandular vs. non-glandular hips in the Nootka rose, with both kinds sometimes occurring in the same population. Because of the rules of nomenclature, however, the varietal epithet var. hispida is still in use to distinguish the interior form of R. nutkana, which is less prickly and glandular overall, from the more robust var. nutkana in coastal marshes. At present, only var. nutkana is recognized as occurring in California.

R. nutkana C. Presl, Epimel. Bot. 203. 1851: Haenke s.n.--Nootka Sound

Possible Synonyms (working list):
R. breweri Greene, Leafl. Bot. Observ. Crit. 2: 262. 1912: Brewer 828--San Jose, Camp 48, 30 Aug (HT: US320924!) = californica or nutkana
R. brownii Rydb., Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 44: 70. 1917: H.E. Brown 349--Mt Shasta (HT: NY!; IS: MO! NY! US!) = inland form of nutkana
R. davyi Rydb., Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 44: 76. 1917: Davy 263--Saratoga, Santa Clara Co. (HT: NY!) = californica or nutkana
R. durandii Crépin, Bull. Soc. Bot. Fr. 22: 19. 1875: E. Hall 146--Oregon, 1871.
R. muriculata Greene, Leafl. Bot. Observ. Crit. 2: 263. 1912: Coville s.n.--Woodland, Cowlitz Co., WA, 15 Jul 1898 (HT: US38003!; IS: US!)
R. nutkana var. hispida Fernald, Bot. Gaz. 19: 335. 1894: syntypes Watson 124, Piper 1540

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