Saltspray Rose
Rosa rugosaRosaceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerFruitFruit
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Rugosa rose, Japanese rose, Beach rose

The Plant:

  • A deciduous thorny shrub, 3-6.5 feet tall.

The Leaves:

  • leathery
  • pinnately compound
  • 7-9 leaflets per leaf
  • leaflets ovate to elliptical
  • dentate margins
  • dark green
  • wrinkled (rugose) upper surface
  • pubescent below

The Stem:

  • many prickles
  • green and maturing to brown
  • young stems have prickles with hairy bases
  • prickles below stipules large and decurved

The Flowers:

  • Fragrant, dark pink or white five-petaled flowers, sometimes seen with double the normal number of petals. Flowers are 2 inches wide. Blooms from June to August.

The Fruits:

  • green rose hips maturing to red or orange
  • depressed-globose shape
  • large
  • 1 inches diameter
  • hips have 5 persistent drying sepals attached
  • ripen late summer

The Habitat:

  • naturalizes on beaches, dunes, coastal headlands
  • open disturbed areas, roadsides, vacant lots
  • gardens


  • seeds are dispersed by birds, small mammals and water

Key ID Features:

  • shrub
  • 1-9 leaflets per leaf
  • wrinkled upper surface
  • pubescent below
  • very thorny stems
  • fragrant
  • pink or white
  • rose hips large green maturing to red
  • 5 dried sepals persist

Similar Species:

  • Other Rose species are distinguished from Saltspray rose by their lack of leathery leaves, smaller flowers and smaller rose hips.


  • The large rose hips containing many seeds can be transported long distances by small mammals, water and birds. While Saltspray rose is sometimes used to build and sustain dunes, it can also displace native species. On Nantucket, it has been widely planted, but there are also many established beach populations.

Growth Form: Shrub

Origin: Japan, China, Korea

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Does not meet criteria

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: no

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston