Nootka rose – Rosa nutkana ssp. nutkana

pink rose
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Plant Type: deciduous shrub
  • Distribution:  Occurs on both sides of Washington state.
  • Habitat: low-elevations to the mountains, they do well along forest and shoreline edges, riparian zones, rocky slopes and thicket edges.
  • Height: up to 6 feet tall
  • Flower/Fruits: light pink to a deep rose pink color. Fruits are a purplish to red colored “rose hip”, looking like a smooth glossy 1.2-2cm berry, the 5 sepals are still attached to the fruit.
  • Flowering Season: May – July
  • Leaves: 5-7 leaflets, margins are serrate or doubly serrate.
  • Generation: Perennial
  • Notable features: Prickles (casually called thorns) generally grow in pairs along the stem. Some bushes or branches may not have prickles. The Nootka rose that grows on the west side of the Casade Mountains is ssp. nutkana, while east of the cascades, the subspecies is ssp. macdougalii.

Conservation and Restoration

Nootka rose makes an excellent thicket providing nesting and cover for birds and small mammals. It is a native plant that does particularily well in disturbed sites, making it an excellent choice during restoration projects or in urban landscaping. The flowers are quite fragrant and pretty, making it a welcomed plant in many gardens and restoration sites for it’s beauty alone, not to mention it is an attractive flower for pollinators to visit.

The large rosehips (or fruit) are eaten by birds and mammals and the seeds are later dispersed. The Okanagan-Colville tribe have reported that the hips (fruit) are eated by coyotes, and the Hesquiat say that deer forage on the plant.


Nootka rose has been a common food and medicinal plant by western American native tribes. In the PNW, the Salish, Skagit, Saanich, Quinault, Nitinaht and Lummi all used the rosehips as food, sometimes eating it fresh, dried, or boiled. The Salish used the young shoots for food. The Lummi also used the twigs, after peeling, and made them into a tea-beverage. The Skagit used an infusion of roots for a soothing eyewash or throat aid.

Besides food and medicine, the whole plant could be used for useful household purposes, including using the leaves for steaming during cooking, ceremonial purposes when a loved-one passes, and more. The Cowichan used the roots with gooseberry and cedar roots to make reed nets for fishing.

References and Resources

This article was written by Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa, email at severlin@uw.edu. For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah at severlin@uw.edu.