Rosa multiflora Thunb.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Rosa multiflora' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2022-08-08.



  • R. polyantha Sieb. & Zucc., not Roessig


Narrowing gradually to a point.
Sharply pointed.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Immature shoot protected by scales that develops into leaves and/or flowers.
Protruding; pushed out.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Bearing glands.
Flower-bearing part of a plant; arrangement of flowers on the floral axis.
Egg-shaped solid.
Enlarged end of a flower stalk that bears floral parts; (in some Podocarpaceae) fleshy structure bearing a seed formed by fusion of lowermost seed scales and peduncle.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rosa multiflora' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2022-08-08.

A wide-spreading bush, ultimately 10 to 15 ft high, sending out each year from the main body of the plant long arching stems which are clothed with blossom the following June. Branches glabrous, armed with small decurved prickles. Leaves 3 to 6 in. long, more on vigorous shoots. Leaflets seven or nine, 1 to 2 in. long, obovate or elliptic, acute or acuminate at the apex, more or less cuneate at the base, commonly downy beneath, but sometimes almost glabrous, simply toothed. Stipules deeply laciniated, and with glandular teeth. Flowers white, about 1 in. across, numerously borne in branching panicles 4 to 6 in. across and as much high. Pedicels and receptacle hairy, the former sometimes with glands as well as hairs. Sepals shorter than the petals even in the bud, with up to three narrow lateral appendages. Petals narrow, not much overlapping. Stamens golden yellow. Styles exserted, united into a glabrous column. Fruits ovoid to round, 14 in. long, red, with the sepals fallen away. Bot. Mag., t. 7119.

Native of Japan and Korea, with varieties in China and Formosa; long known in gardens by its double and variously coloured forms; the single-flowered type with white petals was introduced to France about 1860 and to Britain shortly after 1875. The distinctive mark of R. multiflora is the conspicuously laciniated stipules and, in the typical state, the rather rigid, paniculate inflorescence.

R. multiflora is one of the most beautiful of wild roses; of a robust and very graceful habit, a single bush grows 10 ft or more high, still more in diameter, every branch wreathed with blossom during June. The lower branches take root if resting on loose soil, and for ordinary purposes afford a sufficient means of increase. When more are needed they can be obtained from cuttings with the greatest ease. R. multiflora is useful for clothing high fencing, for planting on banks, and in any place where its vigorous growths can have ample space to develop. In the USA, where R. multiflora is more appreciated than here, other uses have been found for it – for the prevention of soil erosion; as a crash-barrier on the central reservation of motorways; and to provide sanctuary and food for birds. Both in Europe and America it is much used as a stock for grafting garden roses, especially ramblers.


Flowers double, flesh-pink. Introduced from China by Thomas Evans of the East India Company in 1804 (R. multiflora Sims in Bot. Mag., t. 1059, not Thunb.; R. multiflora var. carnea Thory). This, the first form of R. multiflora to be introduced to Europe, is perhaps no longer in cultivation, but similar plants are widely cultivated in China. It evidently derives from var. cathayensis.

'Grevillei' ('Platyphylla') Seven Sisters Rose

An exceedingly vigorous rose with large, rather rugose leaflets. Flowers up to fifty in a cluster, but usually around thirty, of varying shades between cerise-purple and white. ‘The most astonishing curiosity is the variety of colours… white, light blush, deeper blush, light red, darker red, scarlet, and purple – all on the same clusters.’ So wrote R. Donald, proprietor of the Goldsworth Nursery in a letter to Loudon (Gard. Mag., Vol. 1 (1828), p. 467). The shades listed by Donald are seven in number – whence, according to Loudon, the popular name ‘Seven Sisters Rose’ (actually taken from the Chinese name for this variety, probably given for the same reason).’Grevillei’ is said to have been introduced between 1815 and 1817 from Japan, but if the introducer was the Hon. Charles Greville, one of the founders of the Horticultural Society, as is usually supposed, the introduction must have been earlier, as he died in 1809. The botanical name for the Seven Sisters rose is R. multiflora var. platyphylla Thory (Redouté, Les Roses, Vol. 2, p. 67, t.). The plant so named and figured is certainly very like ‘Grevillei’ but has larger and fewer flowers. It was introduced to France by the rose-grower Noisette, who saw it growing in the garden of a ‘maraicher’ (market-gardener) near London, during his visit to this country in 1817. He was given the whole plant, which had been raised from seeds received from Japan. R. multiflora var. platyphylla would be the collective name for the Seven Sisters Rose, of which there are no doubt several slightly differing forms, long cultivated both in China and Japan. But the plant figured under that name in Bot. Reg., t. 1372 (1830) is the introduction to Britain, i.e., ‘Grevillei’. This is still in cultivation. Its long growths, which bear the next season’s flowers, are apt to be cut by frost, so a sheltered warm position should be given to it.

R gentiliana Lévl & Van.

R. multiflora var. gentiliana (Lévl. & Van.) Yu & Tsai

Little is known of R. gentiliana, inadequately described from a specimen collected by the French missionary d’Argy in the Chinese province of Kiangsu, probably from a garden plant or escape, since the flowers were semi-double. The type-specimen was sent to Miss Willmott and a drawing made from it appears in The Genus Rosa (Vol. II, p. 513, t.); it was subsequently lost or destroyed. For R. gentiliana sens. Rehd. & Wils., see R. henryi, p. 72.Boulenger identified as R. gentiliana a rose cultivated at Kew, which had been received from the National Rose Society before 1934 as “R. wilsonii”, and his amplified description of this (?) species was based on this (Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux., Vol. 14, p. 277 (1937)). Why he should have reached this conclusion is not clear, for this rose does not agree at all well with what is known of R. gentiliana. In some respects it resembles R. multiflora ‘Wilsonii’ but the stems have a mixed armature of short, hooked prickles and others needle-like or tending to bristles and the leaflets are sometimes roundish and purple beneath when young. The flowers are pink-flushed at first, in a denser truss, and the fruits are larger, about {1/2} in. wide. The styles are only partly united – a character which, with the mixed armature, suggests hybridity.

R multiflora × Hybrid Teas, Hybrid Perpetuals, Noisettes, etc

Rambling roses raised from these crosses have been largely superseded by those deriving from R. wichuraiana, but a few survive, mostly with ‘Crimson Rambler’ in their parentage.But the groups to which R. multiflora has made its most important contribution are not of climbing habit. The beautiful Hybrid Musks (see p. 163) owe their clustered flowers more to R. multiflora than to R. moschata, despite their name.In the second and later generations the Multiflora ramblers have given rise to the group known as the Dwarf Polyanthas or Polyantha Pompons (see p. 167). The modern Floribundas derive partly from these, by crossing with Hybrid Teas, etc., and partly from the Hybrid Musks, so the contribution of R. multiflora to the bedding roses of today is a large one.

R multiflora × R. gallica (or hybrid of R. gallica)

The rose ‘dela Grifferaie’, once much used as a stock, shows the influence of both the suggested parents; see further on p. 178. Very similar to this is ‘Byzantina’, the Constantinople rose, which Dieck found in Bulgaria and put into commerce (Gartenflora, 1889, p. 159). The Belgian authority Crépin identified the Constantinople rose as R. multiflora × R. gallica, a parentage that Dieck found hard to accept, on the grounds that the rose had reached Bulgaria too early – by the 1820s – for R. multiflora to be a possible parent. It is, however, by no means impossible that cultivars of R. multiflora had reached the gardens of S.W. Asia from China at an early date. The ‘Gul e Rescht’ of Persian gardens, which Christ placed under R. moschata var. nastarana might well be a hybrid of R. multiflora, judging from its laciniated stipules and small double flowers.

R multiflora × R moschata/brunonii

Hybrids believed to be of this parentage form a rather miscellaneous assemblage. The oldest to have survived are ‘The Garland’ and ‘Madame d’Arblay’ (p. 201). ‘Blush Rambler’, of more recent origin, is a cross between ‘The Garland’ and ‘Crimson Rambler’ (see above), thus having R. multiflora in its parentage on both sides. In 1886 the French nurseryman Bernaix put into commerce ‘Polyantha Grandiflora’, a seedling of R. multiflora of which the other parent was either R. moschata or one of its hybrids. A similar cross, using R. brunonii as the seed-parent, was made by Paul of Cheshunt and the result given the preposterous name R. himalaica alba magna; the flowers were semi-double, blush fading to white, and the epithet magna must have been given in allusion to its extraordinary vigour (Gard. Chron., Vol. 62 (1917), p. 23). This is probably the rose now in commerce as ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk Rambler’. The rose called R. moschata floribunda, distributed by Smith of Newry, is of similar parentage.

var. calva Fr. & Sav.

R. calva (Fr. & Sav.) Boulenger

Undersurface of leaflets glabrous, except for occasional down on the midrib. Pedicels glabrous, sometimes glandular. This variety occurs in China as well as in Japan.

var. cathayensis Rehd. & Wils.

R. cathayensis (Rehd. & Wils.) Bailey
R. calva var. cathayensis (Rehd. & Wils.) Boulenger

Flowers larger than in the type, up to 1{3/4} in. wide, rosy pink, few or many in flattish corymbs; pedicels glabrous but often densely glandular. Leaflets, according to the original description, varying from glabrous to densely hairy beneath. Stipules often less deeply incised than in the type. This variety was described from W. Hupeh, China, where it is said to be common on streamsides and is also cultivated in Chinese gardens, in single- and double-flowered forms.


At the winding-up sale of Veitch’s Coombe Wood nursery in 1913 Kew purchased a rose under the unpublished name R. multiflora Wilsonii. A very similar rose, also acquired from Veitch, was exhibited by Messrs Paul of Cheshunt in 1915 under the name “R. Wilsonii”. Both are a good match for flowering and fruiting specimens collected by Wilson in 1900 in W. Hupeh, China, under number W.178, referred by Rehder and Wilson to var. cathayensis, and it is highly probable that the cultivated plants derive from seeds gathered at the same time. The Paul plant, which may have been propagated and put in the trade, had rather finely toothed leaflets, obovate or narrowly so or elliptic, acuminately tapered or acute at the apex, cuneate at the base, downy beneath on the midrib; rachis very glandular; stipules fringed; flowers white, single, about 2 in. across, in a fine broadly pyramidal truss; pedicels slender, glandular-bristly, 1{3/4} to 2 in. long. Fruits orange-red, globular, about {1/4} in. wide.For another “R. Wilsonii”, see below under R. gentiliana.Although usually considered to be a hybrid, the once popular ‘Crimson Rambler’ is probably a Sino-Japanese garden variety of R. multiflora. Being scentless and subject to mildew, it has dropped out of cultivation, but deserves mention as a parent of hybrids. It was introduced by Thomas Jenner of Easter Duddingston, Midlothian, as part of a consignment of Japanese plants which he received in 1878 from Prof. R. Smith, then Professor of Engineering at Tokyo University. Jenner named it ‘The Engineer’ in his friend’s honour, and in 1889 gave stock to John Gilbert, a small Lincoln nurseryman, who exhibited it under this name in 1890, when it received an Award of Merit. Lacking resources for large-scale propagation, he passed the stock to Turner of Slough, who renamed this rose ‘Crimson Rambler’ – whence ‘Turner’s Crimson Rambler’, as this rose was often called (Gard. Chron., Vol. 16 (1894), pp. 248-9).In Willmott’s The Genus Rosa it is suggested that ‘Crimson Rambler’ is R. multiflora × R. chinensis, but the shallow toothing of the stipules in this variety, which apparently led him to this conclusion, is also seen in R. multiflora ‘Carnea’ and often in var. cathayensis.Through various lines of descent, R. multiflora is a parent or ancestor of many modern garden roses, some of which, such as the Floribundas, lie beyond the scope of this work. The following rough and ready classification of the hybrids of R. multiflora may help to explain its role as a parent.