Multiflora rose was first introduced from Japan in 1866 as a rootstock for ornamental roses. Later it was promoted by the U.S. government for erosion control and for use as a living fence. It has also been used as a living snow fence and crash barrier along highways. But multiflora rose creates dense thickets that exclude other plants from growing in fields and along forest edges. Although some birds and other animals eat the fruits, many birds will not eat them. A thicket of multiflora rose offers food and shelter to many fewer animals than a thicket where several different kinds of shrubs grow. Its branches can grow up into surrounding trees adding weight to the branches and making them vulnerable to breaking in storms. Multiflora rose grows across most of the U.S. except in the Rocky Mountains, deserts, and subtropical areas. Now many states that used to promote it consider it a noxious weed and encourage its eradication.
Multiflora rose is one of the first roses to bloom in the spring with clusters of white single blossoms. You will often see this rose in old fields and along roadsides climbing into trees. In the fall, multiflora rose has clusters of small red rosehips that hold many seeds.
If there are just a few plants, cut the canes near the base of the plant and dig out the roots. Have someone hold the canes back with a pitchfork while you cut, and wear sturdy clothing and gloves to avoid the rose's thorns. Seedlings can be hand-pulled. If multiflora rose is growing in a field, mow it repeatedly during the growing season with a brush mower to keep it from spreading. For large thickets or to kill resprouts, use Roundup® Concentrate Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer as a spray in summer as directed on the package. Avoid spraying desirable plants as this product will kill them. You can also paint it directly onto cut stems within 5 minutes of cutting to kill the roots and prevent resprouting. Monitor the area over the next year to look for resprouts and new seedlings.
Create great wildlife habitat by planting a diversity of shrubs to replace the multiflora rose. Viburnums and spicebush produce fruits birds and other animals love. For spring flowers, plant fothergilla, chokeberry (in picture), and dogwood. Native roses that can replace multiflora rose include swamp rose and Carolina rose. The birds will flock to your yard with all these plants to choose from!
Article by Sylvan Kaufman. Dr. Kaufman is a writer of popular scientific and gardening articles. She is also an ecological consultant.