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Woods’ Rose: How to Spot it in the Spring

Woods’ Rose: How to Spot it in the Spring
Thick thorny stems of the Woods Rose in close detail.
Thick, Thorny Stems

I have looked at Woods’ Rose, Rosa woodsii, for quite some time now and it has become a familiar friend. I especially like the plant for its unusually easy to remember latin name pronounced, “rosa woods-e-i.”

You might ask, why create a two-page spread for a plant whose leaves have not yet grown for the season nor its fruits ripe? For that, I have several reasons. First, I find another level of knowledge and understanding in seeing how plants survive winters and what they look like as they come into spring. It’s always easier to identify plants by their leaves and fruit; it is harder to identify it in its barest form. Second, I like to journal about what I see in a given moment of time. In the end of march in Vail, Colorado, I do not see leaves on Woods’ Rose, so it seems dishonest to draw it as if they existed at that time.

Often, in the winter or early spring, I walk right by dormant plants without noticing them. This particular Woods’ Rose, I walked by for several weeks before I bothered to see it. In actively giving a plant attention, we see it in a new light.

In early spring, I found Woods’ Rose on the edge of a wooded area without fresh leaves and some of last year’s fruits still available, albeit very shriveled. The shriveled hips hung tight to the end of reddish brown branches which led to very throned stems. This plant’s stems held some larger thorns than others; they were not uniform in size. Despite a winter of snow, a few old, extremely withered and brown leaves still barely held on to the branches.

Photo shows some of last years shriveled leaves holding on in spring.
Last Year’s Shriveled Leaves


The Woods’ Rose resides in the Rosaceae Family.

General Characterisitcs:

  • Shrub, 20-120cm tall
  • Shallow, branching roots
  • Can form thickets hard to move through
  • Flowers and fruits after 2-5 years
  • Range is throughout the United States and Canada


  • Alternate, pinnately compound
  • Finely toothed leaflets (5-7)
  • Can have hairs underneath


  • Pink or light purple-pink petals
  • 5 broad, single petals
  • On branches, often in clusters
  • appear in summer months, usually June-August


  • “Hips” which are red, usually pear shaped
  • 1.5-3cm long
  • Flesh outside with dry seeds inside with small hairs
  • Outer flesh edible

Woods’ Rose & The Journal

Photo depicts Woods' Rose in a two page spread with a photo and a sketch.  Photo includes text about the general characteristics, habitat, range, and field notes.
Woods’ Rose in the Traveling Nature Journal

If I did not draw the leaves and rose hips as they are normally depicted, why did I write about them? For one, I wanted this first spread of Woods’ Rose to have an informational feel as well as to show a point in the season. Having identified the plant in the early spring, that plant will look different in the summer. With this spread, now I can easily reference back to the leaves, flowers, and fruits later.

As for a picture, I chose one that adequately showed both the distinct, identifying color of Woods’ Rose as well as the thicket that can form. This photo shows not only the color, but the detail of thorns that protrude from each stem.

Branches of Woods' Rose growing together to form an impassible thicket
Branches Forming a Thicket

For the sketch, I opted for the shriveled rose hip on a branch that promised new buds to come. I find the hip as one of the facets easiest to identify and therefore, one of the most important to try to sketch.

With this basis, the next spread on Woods’ Rose can focus more on the details of the flowers, fruits, and leaves without needing the basic information as well.

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Pinterest Pin for this post including blog post title and a photo of the journal pages.