Friday, 15 June 2018

Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

Family: Rosaceae
Dog Rose hips.
(Hellingly, September 2008)
Early summer hedgerows that are smothered with the pink-tinged flowers of the Dog Rose and its many relatives are a glorious sight. The flowers are soon replaced by a spectacular array of polished red rose hips of many different shapes and sizes. The breeding system and taxonomy of the wild roses are extremely complicated and there are several closely related species that form the ‘Rosa canina complex’ (De Riek et al. 2013; Gustafsson 1944; Lang 1987).

Dog Rose hip and leaves.
(New Forest, October 2006)
The hips of the Dog Rose are remarkable for having the highest vitamin C concentration of any fruit in Britain (Plants For A Future [PFAF] database). Rose hips have as much as 2000 mg per 100g (Baher et al. 2011); Sea Buckthorn has 350-1000 mg per 100 g (see separate entry on Sea Buckthorn); and Blackcurrants as much as 400 mg per 100 g—all much more than that of imported citrus fruits with only c. 70 mg per 100g (Nojavan et al. 2008: 304).

In Britain during the Second World War rose hips were a staple source of vitamin C at a time when imported fruits were lacking (Mabey 1992: 78). The then Ministry of Food organised the collection of wild rose hips by volunteers on a very large scale (apparently children were paid 3d per lb of rose hips[ii]), and issued very precise directions on how to prepare rosehip syrup with minimal loss of the precious vitamin C[iii]. It is interesting to note that at the time it was already known that the vitamin C is likely to be destroyed—not from being briefly boiled (see Alston 1942), but rather from the rose hip flesh being crushed. This crushing brings the vitamin C into contact with key enzymes that destroy it as soon as they are freed from the organelles within which they were hitherto contained (cf. Hooper and Ayres 1950). The Ministry’s procedures avoided this loss by advising that the crushed flesh is immediately immersed in boiling water, which rapidly halts the action of the enzymes concerned. The Ministry’s meticulous directions for processing the fruits (e.g., 2 lbs of hips) were as follows:

Have ready 3 pints of boiling water, mince the hips in a coarse mincer, drop immediately into the boiling water or if possible mince the hips directly into the boiling water and again bring to the boil. Stop heating and put aside for 15 minutes. Pour into a flannel or linen crash jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through.

Return the residue to the saucepan, add 1½ pints of boiling water, stir and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip. To make sure all the sharp hairs are removed, put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again.

Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures about 1½ pints, then add 1¾ lb of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes. Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once. If corks are used, these should have been boiled for ¼ hour just previously and after insertion coated with melted paraffin wax.

It is advisable to use small bottles and the syrup will not keep for more than a week or two once the bottle is opened. Store in a dark cupboard.”
(Hedgerow Harvest, Ministry of Food, 1943[iv])

Dog Rose hips.
When eating raw hips as a wayside snack the fruit should be split or cut open and the seeds and bristly hairs scooped out and discarded. The fruits should then be rinsed in water to remove any remaining hairs. This is very important as the hairs can cause choking and serious irritation of the throat [v]. Once all the seeds and bristly hairs are removed the hip flesh can be stewed to make a mush that can be eaten as a fruit dish on its own or as an accompaniment to other foods such as yoghurt. From late summer onwards the hips become so soft that the flesh can be squeezed out of the apices leaving behind the seeds and bristly hairs and this can be eaten directly (Anna Richardson pers. comm.). Alternatively, the fruits can be made into rosehip tea.
Dog Rose hips split open showing
seeds and hairs. (August 2003)

Food value and medicinal properties
Rose hips have many medicinal properties. In addition to vitamin C, they contain an impressive array of other nutrients, including vitamins E and B, polyphenols and carotenoids, which have powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial effects (Ilyasoğlu 2014; Kılıçgün and Altıner 2010; Mármol et al. 2017; Orhan et al. 2009). They are used as a source for anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory treatments. It is also important to note that rose hips can contain up to 12 per cent sugars and because they occur so widely and grow so prolifically in Britain they are a valuable survival food—particularly as the fruits are available well into the winter.

The fruits and petals of Rosa canina have traditionally been used as nutritional supplements and remedies for a range of ailments for many years and in diverse regions of the world. For example, in Skartvelo (Republic of Georgia) rose hips are used to make jam and tea (Bussmann et al. 2016); in the Alta Valle del Reno of northern Italy a traditional local liqueur was made from rose petals infused for one month in sugar-sweetened grappa (Egea et al. 2016); in the Grosses Walsertal valley, Vorarlberg (western Austria) the petals are used to make tea (Grasser et al. 2012); and a post-WW II survey of wild plant use in Poland cited the use of rose hips being eaten raw, preserved as jam or made into wine (Łuczaj 2008). A brief review of the ethnobotanical literature reveals many more references to the uses of Dog Rose as a valuable edible resource. The medicinal uses are as widely reported, for example, in the Sulayminiyah region of Iraqi Kurdistan the flowers and fruits were made into a decoction for use as a diuretic or to treat blood disorders (Ahmed 2016); in the Western Pyrenees rose hips are used as remedy for gastrointestinal and respiratory problems (Akerreta et al. 2007); in Afyonkarahisar, eastern Turkey, an infusion made from boiling dried fruits is drunk for the treatment of hemorrhoids and gastric ulcers (An et al. 2015); and in Slovenia hips were used to alleviate abdominal pain, headache, diarrhoea and fever (Lumpert and Kreft 2017).

Dog Rose hips.
(Hellingly, September 2008)
Prehistoric and historic usage
As has been noted for several of the other fruits in the Wild Plant Foods of Britain blog, the remains of Rosa species (including fruits and seeds) are commonly preserved on archaeological sites in waterlogged form (e.g., see entries for Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Crab Apple; Colledge and Conolly 2014, table 4; Jacomet 2006: table 3). At the Swiss late Neolithic lakeside settlements of Arbon Bleiche 3 (Hosch and Jacomet 2004), Horgen-Scheller (Favre 2003), Pfäffikon-Burg (Zibulski 2010) and Sutz-Lattrigen (Lattrigen Hauptstation VII; Brombacher 1997) there are large numbers of waterlogged seeds of Rosa sp. (species identification not confirmed); the fact that the seeds are preserved in such quantities suggests that fruits were being deliberately collected. Similarly, at the German late Neolithic site of Sipplingen (Riehl 2004) and the French middle Neolithic site of Motte-aux-Magnins (Lundström-Baudais 1989), both also pile dwelling (‘Pfahlbauten) settlements, the abundant Rosa remains were all waterlogged and none were charred. Whole fruits, fruit fragments and seeds—again all waterlogged, were preserved at the French middle Neolithic site of Bercy (Dietsch 1992).

Rosa sp. seeds (waterlogged) were found in the 15th century ‘Ducal pit’ (a waste pit associated with household activities) in the palace of the Este family in Ferrara (northern Italy; Bosi et al. 2009). The authors compare the edible plants found in the pit with the ingredients of recipes in a late15th/early 16th century cookbook and note: “Rose petals were largely used to produce acqua rosa or rosata  (rosewater), a flavouring employed in about eighty recipes, while the use of rosehips was not reported” (Bosi et al. 2009: 397-398). Seeds were also identified in the organic layers of the 15th century Worcester barrel latrine (Greig 1981). Greig makes reference to the similarity between the list of species found in the barrel, including roses, strawberries, fennel, henbane, coriander and corn marigold, and the plants typical of a Medieval garden as cited in mid-15th century poem by ‘Mayster Ion Gardener’ (Amherst 1894).

Roses were important in Medieval gardens, not only for their obvious uses but also their symbolism; in A Short History of Gardens (Campbell 2016) in the section on the European Medieval garden, the author comments: “The association of the Virgin with the rose meant that many horti conclusi[vi] were rose gardens, typically laid out in quadrants with a fountain at the centre, and enclosed by a hedge or wall. There were often arbours, raised flower beds, turfed seats and (in the fifteenth century) topiary…. and trellises with climbing roses Some of these enclosed gardens were ecclesiastical, but those that belonged to nobility had a secular dimension.”


Ahmed, H.M. 2016. Ethnopharmacobotanical study on the medicinal plants used by herbalists in Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdistan, Iraq. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 12:8 DOI 10.1186/s13002-016-0081-3

Akerrreta, S., Cavero, R.Y. and Calvo, M.I. 2007. First comprehensive contribution to medical ethnobotany of Western Pyrenees. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 3:26 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-3-26

Alston, J.M. 1942. Vitamin C in fruit preparations. British Medical Journal 1(4243): 559.

Amherst, A.M.T. 1894. A fifteenth century treatise on gardening by “Mayster Ion Gardener”. Archaeologia 54(1): 157-172.

An, S., Temel, M., Kargıoğlu, M. and Konuk, M. 2015. Ethnobotanical survey of plants used in Afyonkarahisar –Turkey. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 11:84 DOI 10.1186/s13002-015-0067-6

Baher, E., Montazeri, N., Barami, Z. and Purshamsian,K. 2011. Chemical evaluation of Rosa canina fruit to determine ascorbic acid content. Oriental Journal of Chemistry 27(3): 1049-1052.

Bosi, G., Mercuri, A.M., Guarnieri, C. and Mazzanti, M.B. 2009. Luxury food and ornamental plants at the 15th century A.D. Renaissance court of the Este family (Ferrara, northern Italy). Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 18: 389-402.

Brombacher, C. 1997. Archaeobotanical investigations of Late Neolithic lakeshore settlements (Lake Biel, Switzerland). Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 6: 167-186.

Campbell, G. 2016. A Short History of Gardens. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Colledge, S. and Conolly, J. 2014. Wild plant use in European Neolithic subsistence economies: a formal assessment of preservation bias in archaeobotanical assemblages and the implications for understanding changes in plant diet breadth. Quaternary Science Reviews 101: 193-206.

Bussmann, R.W., Paniagua Zambrana, N.Y., Sikharulidze, S., Kikvidze, Z., Kikodze, D., Tchelidze, D., Khutsishvili, M., Batsatashvili, K. and Hart, R.E. 2016. A comparative ethnobotany of Khevsureti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Tusheti, Svaneti and Racha-Lechkhumi, Republic of Georgia (Sakartvelo), Caucasus. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 12:43 DOI 10.1186/s13002-016-0110-2

De Riek, J., De Cock, K., Smulders, M.J.M. and Nybom, H. 2013. AFLP-based population structure analysis as a means to validate the complex taxonomy of dogroses (Rosa section Caninae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 67(3): 547-559.

Dietsch, M.F. 1992. L’occupation Chasséen du bord de Seine à Bercy: analyse carpologique. Unpublished thesis CNRS, Paris.

Egea, T., Signorini, M.A., Ongaro, L., Rivera, D., Obón de Castro, C. and Bruschi, P.
2016. Traditional alcoholic beverages and their value in the local culture of the Alta Valle del Reno, a mountain borderland between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna (Italy). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 12:27 DOI 10.1186/s13002-016-0099-6

Favre, P. 2002. Archaobotanik. In: Achour-Uster C, Eberli U, Ebersbach R, Favre P (eds) Die Seeufersiedlungen in Horgen. Die neolithischen und bronzezeitlichen Fundstellen Dampfschiffsteg und Scheller. Fotorotar, Zurich, pp 150–181

Grasser, S., Schunko, C. and Vogl, C.R. 2012. Gathering “tea” – from necessity to connectedness with nature. Local knowledge about wild plant gathering in the Biosphere Reserve Grosses Walsertal (Austria). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 8:31

Greig, J. 1981. The investigation of a Medieval barrel-latrine from Worcester. Journal of Archaeological Science 8: 265-282.

Gustafsson, Ä. 1944. The constitution of the Rosa canina complex. Hereditas 30(3): 405-428.

Hooper, F.C. and Ayres, A.D. 1950. The Enzymatic degradation of ascorbic acid. Part 1—The inhibition of enzymatic oxidation of Ascorbic Acid by substances occurring in Black Currants. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 1(1): 5-8.

Hosch, S. and Jacomet, S. 2004. Ackerbau und Sammelwirtschaft. Ergebnisse der
Untersuchung von Samen und Früchten. In: Jacomet, S., Leuzinger, U. and Schibler, J.
(eds.), Die jungsteinzeitliche Seeufersiedlung Arbon Bleiche 3. Umwelt und
Wirtschaft, Archäologie im Thurgau, vol. 12, pp. 112-157.

Ilyasoğlu, H. 2014. Characterization of rosehip (Rosa canina) seed and seed oil. International Journal of Food Properties 17: 1591-1598.

Jacomet, S. 2006. Plant economy of the northern Alpine lake dwellings – 3500-2400 cal. BC. Environmental Archaeology 11(1): 65-85.

Kılıçgün, H. and Altıner, D. 2010. Correlation between antioxidant effect mechanisms and polyphenol content of Rosa canina. Pharmacognosy Magazine, 6(23): 238–241.

Lang, D.C.  1987.  The complete book of British berries. Threshold Books, London.

Łuczaj, Ł. Archival data on wild foods used in Poland in 1948. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 4:4 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-4-4

Lumpert, M. and Kreft, S. 2017. Folk use of medicinal plants in Karst and Gorjanci, Slovenia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 13:16 DOI 10.1186/s13002-017-0144-0

Lundström-Baudais, K. 1989. Les macrorestes végétaux du niveau V de la Motte-aux-Magnins. In: P. Pétrequin (ed) Les sites littoraux néolithiques de Clairvaux-les-Lacs (Jura) – 2 – Le Néolithique moyen. pp. 417-439.

Mármol, I., Sánchez-de-Diego, C., Jiménez-Moreno, N., Ancín-Azpilicueta, C. and Rodríguez-Yoldi, M.J. 2017. Therapeutic applications of rose hips from different Rosa  species. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 18,1137 doi:10.3390/ijms18061137

Mabey, R. 1992. Food for Free. Harper Collins, London.

Nojavan, S., Khalilian, F., Momen Kiaiae, F., Rahmini, A., Arabanian, A. and Chalavi, S. 2008. Extraction and quantitative determination of ascorbic acid during different maturity stages of Rosa canina fruit. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 21: 300-305.

Orhan, N., Aslan, M. Hoşbaş, S. and Deliorman, O.D. 2009. Antidiabetic effect and antioxidant potential of Rosa canina fruits. Pharmacognasy Magazine 5(20): 309-315.

Plants For A Future (PFAF). [accessed 15.05.18]

Riehl, S., 2004. Jungneolithische Pflanzenproduktion und Nutzung des Naturraums am Überlinger See/Bodensee: Archäobotanische Untersuchungen an Kulturschichtsedimenten aus der Seeufersiedlung Sipplingen. In: Köninger, J. and Schlichtherle, H. (eds.), Siedlungen der Pfyner Kultur im Osten der Pflahlbaubucht von Sipplingen, Bodenseekreis, Naturwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen. Hemmenhofener Skripte 4, Band 2, pp. 9-76.

Zibulski, P. 2010. Botanik. In: Eberli, U. (ed.), Die horgenzeitliche Siedlung Pfäffikon-Burg. Monographien der Kantonsarchäologie Zürich 40, Zürich und Egg 2010, 236-255.

[i] So named because it was used to treat dog bites (rabies). ( [accessed: 16.05.18])
[ii] Excerpt from the Gloucester Citizen, 15th January 1942: ‘Rose Hip Syrup. National rose hip syrup, which can be taken as a substitute for orange juice, will be on sale in chemists’ shops in England, Scotland and Wales from February 1, the Ministry of Health announces. A campaign organised last summer and autumn by the Ministry and the Department of Health for Scotland, resulted in the collection of 200 tons of rose hips by boy scouts, girl guides and various women’s organisations. One teaspoon a day will supply half the vitamin C needs of a child. It has a sweet, palatable flavour.
[iv] Hedgerow harvest: Rosehips ( [accessed: 16.05.18])
[v] The hairs are used as itching powder.
[vi] Latin term meaning ‘enclosed garden’.

No comments:

Post a Comment