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North Dakota State Flower

Prairie Rose
Justin Meissen
Prairie Rose

In 1907, the state of North Dakota designated the “Wild Prairie Rose” as the North Dakota State Flower.

I had always assumed the state flower was what's commonly known as the prairie rose, or perhaps the wild rose (Rosa arkansana). I was surprised to learn recently that the state flower also includes the smooth rose (Rosa blanda). So, the state flower honors two rose species.

Prairie Rose
The prairie rose grows across the state on the prairies and grasslands, as well as the margins of woodlands, roadsides, and similar habitats. It is the most abundant and widespread rose in the state.

  • It grows about a foot tall.
  • The stems are not very spiny, but are covered with dense prickles.
  • The stems often die back during the winter, so the plants are often observed sprouting from a dead stem.
  • The leaves are composed of 9 to 11 leaflets, which is helpful in identification.

Smooth Rose
The number of leaflets, plant height, and lack of prickles are most helpful in differentiating smooth rose from prairie rose.

  • The smooth rose is taller, growing from 3 to 6 feet tall.
  • It has stout stems that are mostly smooth, with perhaps a few prickles at the base and on the young branches.
  • It has leaves composed of 5 to 7 leaflets.

Other roses in North Dakota
It might surprise you, but North Dakota is home to four species of rose, and the casual observer may have a difficult time differentiating some of them. The other two species are the prickly rose (Rosa acicularis) and the Woods’ rose (Rosa woodsii). Both species are tall, growing from about 3 to 6 feet tall and are associated with woodlands.

The prickly rose has been documented in a handful of counties, in and around Turtle Mountain, Pembina Hills, Devils Lake, the Sheyenne River delta, and Stark County. It may be considered infrequent and is associated with woody hillsides and ravines, thickets, and the like.

Woods’ rose, however, is common and widespread in the state. It is tall and has two recurved prickles just below where the leaves are attached.

Further Reading

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
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