“…with sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

-William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Eglantine was also known as dog-rose (Rosa canina) in Shakespeare’s time.

Other common names: wild rose, briar-rose, witches’ briar

Dog-rose, which is native to the UK, is found widespread across England and selected parts of Scotland. They prefer areas with heavy, clay-rich soils, including hedgerows, woodland edges, and scrubland. It is also the most abundant and widespread of all wild roses in the UK.

R. canina is a thorny climber with strongly hooked prickles, which allows them to weave between shrubs and use them as a growth support. They can grow between 1-5 meters tall, with the taller distances achieved when using the growth supports.

This climber has blue-green leaves on alternate sides of the stem, divided into 2-3 hairless, toothed leaflets. The leaf buds can be affected by a gall, often known as rose bedeguar galls or robin’s pincushions. These are harmless abnormal growths with a hard woody structure, surrounded by reddish-yellow moss-like leaves. The gall is caused by gall wasps, which aids the wasp in many ways, including acting as a habitat and food source, and providing protection from predators.

R. canina blooms between May and August, producing large pink or white flowers with five petals. These flowers often grow in groups of two or three, and are well known to be sweet-scented.

Come Autumn, it produces bright red, berry-like hips, 15-20mm in size. These hips contain many hairy seeds, and are used as a food source for birds and small mammals, such as bank voles. As for human use, these hips are high in vitamin C, and were traditionally used in syrups to boost levels.

The old riddle, ‘The Five Brethren of the Rose‘ simply identifies roses within the Canina group effectively:

On a summer’s day, in sultry weather

Five Brethren were born together.

Two had beards and two had none

And the other had but half a one.”

‘Brethren’ equates to the five sepals of the dog-rose, which states that two of them are hairy on both sides, two are smooth, and the final one is hairy on one side.

In medieval heraldry, the dog-rose in quite a common symbol. In German folklore, it is said to be linked to the devil, and its fruits were used by fairies to make themselves invisible. It is also the emblem of the Scottish Rose clan, and the country flower of Hampshire.