Multiflora Rose, An Invasive But Nutritious Wild Edible


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Rosa multiflora
Multiflora Rose, typical growth habit with flowers
(Photo By: Quert1234 / Wikimedia Commons)

Roses are one of the most popular plants known to mankind.  Their history as a cultivated plant goes back at least 5000 years.  The Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), also known as Japanese Rose is a native Asian rose that has become invasive in many parts of the United States and Canada.  The edibility and medicinal uses of other species of roses is similar and some are even superior to Multiflora Rose, but Multiflora Rose is the most prolific in North America due to  its invasive tendencies.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Roses have edible berries called rose hips. Multiflora Rose hips are small but plentiful. I commonly eat them raw but making a hot or cold tea out of rose hips is a popular way to enjoy their unique flavor. To make the tea, mash the rose hips and steep them in hot water.

Rosa multiflora
Multiflora Rose berries, also known as rose hips.

The best time to harvest Rose hips is after the first frost because they become soft and sweet. If they are not soft and sweet at that point it is recommended to keep them on the plant until they are.  Depending on the weather, Multifora Rose hips may last until late winter before they begin to get rotten( colder weather seems to preserve them longer).  The seeds are edible and perfectly fine to steep in tea, but some people also grind them up and add them to foods for their nutritional content.  Rose leaves and flower petals are also edible. They can both be eaten raw, the leaves should be harvested when young, before they develop thorns on the underside.  I eat a lot of Multiflora Rose leaves throughout the year, even into winter, I have noticed that I can find young thorn-less leaves all year except for late winter.

Health Benefits

Rosa multiflora
Multiflora Rose, young edible leaves (Photo By: AnRo0002 / Wikimedia Commons)

Roses have nutritional benefits that most people are not aware of. Rose hips and leaves are very rich in vitamin C, and the hips are also rich in carotene and a good source of essential fatty acids.  The seeds are a good source of vitamin E and are often ground up and added to foods as a nutritional supplement.  Roses are being studied as a food that may reduce instances of cancer, and possibly assist in improving cases of cancer.

Key ID Features

Multiflora Rose often grows in a mass of thorny viney stalks. It is commonly seen growing adjacent to other prickery vines and shrubs such as Greenbrier, Raspberry, and Japanese Barberry so knowing that Roses have thorns will not always help you to identify them.  On the other hand the shape of the thorns will help you to properly identify Multiflora Rose. The thorns are relatively large and curved, the base of the thorn is a perfect elongated oval.  You can break off a thorn and see the perfect oval scar left on the stem. The thorns grow directly on the stems and are located 2″-5″ apart growing on any side of the stem.  The easier way to identify Multiflora Rose is by its multitude of small white roses, but they are only present during the summer.

Cautions

Rosa multiflora
Multiflora Rose, notice the curved thorns,elongated oval thorn base, and spacing of thorns.

THORNS! They are sharp! The other thing to watch out for is that there are stiff irritating hairs inside the fruit protecting the seeds. They are usually not a problem in tea, but if you eat the rose hips raw you might experience some irritation.

Conclusion

If we have to deal with Multiflora Rose as a problematic invasive species, then the least we can do is get something out of it.  Like many other invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed and Autumn Olive, this plant also offers us some nutrition and variety to our diets.  The vitamin C content alone is enough to persuade us to add Multiflora Rose to our diet.  The unique flavor of rose hip tea is a conversation starter and may help more people to learn to appreciate nature and its extreme diversity of wild edibles.

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Eastern White Pine, An Effective Remedy For The Common Cold


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Pinus Strobus
Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine, mature habit and size

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is a common native forest and landscape tree in the eastern half of the United States.  The Pines (Genus: Pinus) are a prolific genus of trees and shrubs including slightly more than 100 species.  This particular species is a long lived tree, some exceptional specimens have been estimated to be almost 500 years old. Although it is commonly planted as a landscape tree, Eastern White Pine grows very tall, often approaching 100′, some specimens have been measured to be over 150′.  The edibility of Eastern White Pine is unknown by most. Many people are surprised to know how important it was to the Native American diet.  Much of this information is also true of some other pine species but Eastern White Pine is a plant with well documented edible and medicinal uses.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine, needles and mature cone (Photo By: Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, USA)

I refer to Eastern White Pine as a hidden wild edible because it is so large and common, but its edible components are not.  It has no berries, or tubers, or large leaves, so why is it such and important edible plant?  Because it gives foragers something to harvest in the winter.  The needles are edible and most commonly used to make a hot tea. The nutritional and medicinal properties of the needles are best preserved by steeping the needles in hot water instead of boiling them, you can steep for as little as 15 mins or a long as a few days. The tea has a surprisingly good flavor, it is bitter, resinous, and slightly sweet but most people end up adding additional sweetener.  Eastern White Pine also contains edible inner bark, as unpleasant as this sounds a number of Native American tribes ate this inner bark throughout the winter to prevent starvation.  In fact all parts of the tree are non-toxic.  Native Americans were creative in their use of white pine, eating any parts of the tree that they could prepare to be palatable including young green pine cones.  I enjoy chewing on the new growth in the spring, it is not too resinous, and it is soft enough to chew. Some species of pine have nuts inside the mature cones that are large enough to eat. Eastern White pine has very small nuts, they can be eaten, but usually are too much effort to collect.

Health Benefits

The really surprising thing about Eastern White Pine is its vitamin C content. It has 5 times the vitamin C content of lemons (by weight). That’s one of the primary reasons it’s so important in the Native American diet.  It also contains vitamin A and resveratrol which may have some anti-aging properties.  White pine can be an effective medicinal plant acting especially well on the respiratory system to sooth and clear phlegm.  It’s no coincidence that this is an abundantly available wild medicinal plant during cold and flu season, and an effective Native American remedy for coughs and congestion.  The reason you don’t boil the needle tea is because the vitamin C is sensitive to heat and may break down into other components. It is a good idea to boil the water and pour it on top of the needles.

Key ID Features

Pinus taeda
Pinus taeda, Loblolly Pine has 3 needles in a fascicle. Notice the small fascicle sheath at the base of the needles. White pine needle clusters look almost identical but have 5 needles in a fascicle – not shown. click to enlarge (Photo By: JMK / Wikimedia Commons)

Way too often the word “pine” is used to refer to all needled evergreen trees or all conifers.  The fact is that pines are a certain genus and are distinctly different from spruce, fir, hemlock and other evergreens.  Pines are rather easy to identify once you know what to look for.  First of all, all pines are conifers, meaning that they produce cones, but not all conifers are pines. Spruce, fir and others are also conifers. Eastern White Pine cones are very visible throughout the growing season but primarily in the fall.  The primary way to tell pine trees apart from other conifers is that their needles grow in fascicles. A fascicle is a sheath at the base of a group of needles.  Pine needles grow in groups of 2-5 needles bundled in a fascicle at the base.  Most other species of conifers have single needles that grow directly from the stem. Eastern White Pine has 5 needles to a fascicle and they are about 3″ long. There are other much less common pine trees that have 5 needles to a fascicle but if you’ve found a tree like this then chances are it is an Eastern white pine, but if not then at least you know it is a pine.

Cautions

There is one caution when consuming Eastern White Pine.  The resin could cause dermatitis in some people.  The resin is in every part of the plant so use in small quantities at first.

Conclusion

Eastern White Pine is a plant that I thought I was familiar with for most of my life.  When I found out about its edible and medicinal properties I started viewing the plant as a much more versatile wild edible.  I often wondered how Native Americans got their vitamin C. Many people believe vitamin C primarily comes from citrus fruits, and most Native Americans did not have citrus fruit. I was also amazed by the fact that this is such a good remedy for cold and flu symptoms and it happens to be abundant in cold and flu season when many other wild edible are not.  So if you’re looking for something to forage this winter an Eastern White Pine tree is probably not far away.

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our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

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Read more.
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What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer”

Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
(Photo By: Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, USA)

This is a website about wild edibles so when identifying conifers we should know how they are distinguished from other plants

What is the opposite of the term “conifer”?

A Question we have heard since we learned about trees as children.  The answer is easy right?

First of all, think of an answer and write it down, before you continue…

Click here to see answer