Rose hips, what they are and how you can harvest them.

raindrops on David Austin English Rose, "Mary Rose" in my garden
raindrops on David Austin English Rose, “Mary Rose” in my garden

There are pink blossoms and orange rose hips in my garden. It is the beginning of the second week in December and the English rose in my garden is blooming still. At the end of November, the buds were closed and I clipped, what I thought, were the last of its deep pink blossoms.

Mary Rose, David Austin Rose. Photo by Donna L. Long.
May 16, 2019 – Mary Rose, David Austin Rose. Photo by Donna L. Long.

But a week before the Thanksgiving holidays the lovely Mary Rose bloomed again in shades of deep and pale pinks on each blossom and petal. I can’t help but sing the praises of the favorite flower in my garden. ‘Mary Rose’ is a David Austin English Rose that first appeared on the world stage in 1983.

She is an old rose hybrid and the first rose I ever bought back in 1989 for my then beginning garden. Mary Rose is named for the flagship of the navy of English King Henry VIII, which sunk during the king’s reign.

Mary Rose is strongly scented with old rose aroma with hints of honey and almond. Mary Rose blossoms with pure pink flowers in spring and repeat flowers we’ll into November and now December in my Philadelphia garden. As I drive around my neighborhood I see other roses are blooming, too.

Mary Rose is prone to black spot in late July and August when the Delaware Valley is at its’ most humid. But after dropping the affected leaves, Mary Rose blooms on and on.

sketch of a rose hip of 'Mary Rose' - David Austin English Rose. Drawing by Donna L. Long.
sketch of a rose hip of ‘Mary Rose’ – David Austin English Rose. Drawing by Donna L. Long.

Another stand-out feature of the Mary Rose are her hips. Not the humankind of hips but we call the fruit of a rose, a hip. Rose hips form after a flower fades. Rose fruits form after the blossoms is fertilized and matures into a fruit. If you have ever looked underneath the petals of a rose, you see the bulb-like green part from which the petals spread out of forming the blossom.

Dissecting the rose hip of 'Mary Rose'.
Dissecting the rosehip of ‘Mary Rose’.

Within the green bulb (called the calyx tube), the pollinated ovary swells producing fertile seeds. All roses develop hips. These fruits are often red or orange. They can be small as a blueberry or large as a Bing cherry. Hips have a variety of shapes and ca be pear, oval, or urn-shaped.

Rose hips are so distinctive in appearance that experts can identify a rose by looking at just the hips. The largest and showiest hips are on old garden or shrub rose varieties. The ‘Mary Rose’ has bright orange rose hips which are large and shaped like incandescent light bulbs. Rose hips remind me of apples. And botanists place apples and roses int the same family.

dissected rosehip of the David Austin Mary Rose


Wild or uncultivated roses occur around the planet, but only in the northern hemisphere. Roses occur in the northern hemisphere continents of North American and the European, Asian and Middle Eastern regions of Eurasia. As far as I know, there isn’t any evidence that wild roses naturally occur in the Earth’s southern hemisphere.  All wild roses except for a few species have single flowers with five petals.

Years ago I tried growing the local native rose, Rosa virginiana in my garden but the plant needs more room than I could give her. Instead of growing upright and shrubby as expected of its species, it insisted trailing along the ground and invading the growing spaces of nearby pants. The plant was a gift from a botanist so I am sure it was Rosa virginiana, at least he said it was.

dissected rosehip of the David Austin English Rose, Mary ROse

Roses are plants with long histories with the indigenous people in the Eastern forests of North America. Captain John Smith of Jamestown, Virginia fame, wrote that the indigenous people of the James River Valley planted wild roses to beautify their villages. I can imagine some of my grandmothers doing that, planting native roses outside their houses. I can imagine some of my grandfathers planting roses to win favor with my grandmothers. I think loving roses is in my DNA.

Some of the native species of roses are Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana),  Dwarf Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana), Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris), Carolina and Pasture Rose (Rosa carolinia) and several others.

A close up of one of the rose hips of ‘Mary Rose” David Austin English Rose in my garden.

Using Rose Hips

Rose hips contain as much as one hundred times the vitamin C as citrus fruits. If you would like to experiment making rose hips teas, jellies and other foods remember these tips.

  • Gather the rose hips in fall after the first. Cold weather reduces the fruit’s astringency.
  • Do not use hips, petals, or any plant parts from plants sprayed with pesticides, chemicals, or other substances that maybe harmful to human health. Don’t give the food to animals ever.
  • During the blossoming season do not cut or deadhead (remove) the blossoms because you will be removing the future rose hips. Or at least don’t remove the last of the blooms when the rose plant winds down it’s blooming phase.
  • Preparing rose hips: Cut the shriveled blossom ends form the hips. Wash the hips well and cut the hip in half lengthwise. This will allow you to remove the seeds easier. The seeds can be planted as an experiment in propagation or growing roses. Keep the hips chilled to preserve the vitamin C. Don’t use aluminum or copper pots, bowls, utensils, etc. when preparing rose hips because these metals react chemically with the ascorbic acid and reduce the Vitamin C. For culinary uses any very fragrant pink or red rose will do. It takes about forty medium-sized rose hips to fill two cups (measuring cups).
Blossom of the Mary Rose in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long.


I’ll be observing and sketching the hips of the other roses in my garden. I’ll end up with a good record and perhaps like an expert, be able to identify a rose by its hips alone.


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