Burnet rose

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The burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) is found throughout Great Britain on downland, heaths and dunes, especially near the sea. For many years, varieties of this flower have been popular garden plants. Its rootstock suckers freely, spreading vigorously underground from the main root in producing new flowering stems at a distance from it. A single hybrid rapidly fills out into a dense bush covering a large area, which makes the plant popular with gardeners.

Botanists once called the burnet rose Rosa spinosissima, which means ‘the spiniest rose’ due to the large number of thorns. Another characteristic, unique among wild roses, is the purple black swelling or ‘hip’ that forms on the end of the flower stalk after fertilisation. All other wild rose hips are red or scarlet.

The burnet rose is an upright, spiny, bushy plant that grows to between 6 and 24 inches (15-60 cm) in height. The stem has many spines and bristles. The leaves are hairless, and each leaf has seven to nine small, toothed leaflets.

The plant flowers between May and July. The flowers are solitary with woody styles. They are creamy-white and sometimes splashed with pink. The fruits are round, with a crown of long sepals.

Both the common and the scientific names of the burnet rose derived from the close resemblance of its leaves to those of the burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), which is a member of the parsley family.

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