Rose Family

California Rose © KKorbholz

Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Leaves generally serrate and alternate
  • Usually 5 separate petals and sepals
  • Flower with numerous stamens and pistils
  • Sepals, petals, and stamens fused at base into a cup-like structure (hypanthium)

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Herbaceous annuals and perennials, shrubs and small trees
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets) or compound (divided into leaflets)
    • Often with serrated edges
    • Generally alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
    • Often with stipules (pair of leaf-like structures at the base of the leaf stalk)
  • Flowers
    • Usually bisexual and radially symmetric, e.g. blackberry flower
    • Usually with 5 sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) and 5 petals, freely attached to a shallow cup (hypanthium)
    • Numerous stamens (male flower parts)
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts) to inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit in many kinds, including an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open), an aggregate of achenes, or a drupe (a fleshy fruit with usually 1 seed in a hard inner shell — a stone fruit)
The Rose Family, by Robert Frost (1928)


  • Approximately 3,000 species worldwide
    • Includes roses, chamise, holly-leaved cherry, ocean spray, toyon, and many commonly-eaten fruits, such as plums, apples, and raspberries
  • Many of the fruits eaten by Native people were members of the Rose family, e.g. blackberries, strawberries, cherries, and toyon
    • Bushes and tress were actively managed by pruning and burning, stimulating many positive effects (Anderson 2005)
      • Vigorous and straighter shoots
      • Larger and more numerous fruits 
      • Less congested canopies
      • Reduced insect infestations 
  • Robert Frost wrote a poem titled “The Rose Family” (Frost 1928)
  • Scientific name from the included genus Rosa, from the Latin for the plant
  • Represented by 22 species at Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley. Pp. 274-280.

Frost, R. 1928. “The Rose Family.” West-Running Brook. American Poems.

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family