A unique and captivating feature of Rosa rugosa-the rose hip-can be spied at the top of the Granite Prospect of Pier 1 and blanketing the sides of the Pier 6 volleyball courts and concession building. The rose hip, or rose haw, is the bright red, succulent fruit of the rose that develops in the spring and matures in late summer. Unlike the rose petals that whither and drop off the shrub in the fall, the rose hip remains attached to the plant, hung like a striking red ornament throughout the winter months.
©Jessica Krause Smith
Aside from the captivating off-season beauty of the rose hip, it also serves a purpose for theplant. As a fruit, it evolved to be eaten, so that the seeds could be distributed far and wide. While Rosa rugosa never intended for humans to eat their fruit, as with many fruits, we’ve figured out a way. Many cultures make jams, teas, syrups, and pies from the supple flesh of the fruit. The hollow inside of the fruit contains minute hairs that can be processed to create itching powder. Unless these hairs are removed prior to consumption, you will experience an unpleasant sensation! Why on earth would we risk eating itching powder? Because the rose hip contains more vitamin C than almost any other source on the planet, more than 20 times that of an orange. Rose hip tea has been used throughout time to cure anything from scurvy to the common cold.
The rose hips found in Brooklyn Bridge Park are grown on Rosa rugosa, a species of rose native to northern China, Japan, Korea, and southeastern Siberia. This species of rose is typically 4 to 6 feet tall with dark pink to pure white roses that bloom between June and August, and sometimes well into fall. Dense groupings of small thorns and pinnate leaves encompass the stem.
Rosa rugosa is largely an ornamental rose with hardy qualities. Unlike other species of rose, Rosa rugosa is tolerant of salt, high winds, and resistant to the harmful fungus rose rust. Because of these qualities, they are often planted in coastal landscapes and gardens where little maintenance is required. To cultivate the full beauty of this rose, grow in full-sun with well-drained soil.