Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a non-indigenous species of the Rosaceae family that many of you may already be familiar with, but is of great interest nonetheless.
Rosa rubiginosa (known as the Eglantine Rose or Sweet Briar in English, Wilderoos in Afrikaans & mamarosa in sisotho), is a deciduous shrub of around 2-3 m high. The name eglantine is from Middle English eglentyn, from Old French aiglantin or from aiglent meaning ‘sweetbrier’. Sweet refers to the subtle fragrance of the leaves which are reminiscent of the scent of apples, while briar or brier refers to the plant being a thorny bush. R. rubigonosa may be found growing in dense groves in disturbed areas and near rivers or streams, and even on moist south facing slopes in the Eastern Free State. Widespread from the WC – Kwa-Zulu Natal. The leaves of R. rubigonosa are pinnate and vary between 50-90 mm in length with 5-9 oval leaflets with serrated margins and bearing small hairs. The stems are green-reddish brown, approx 1 cm in diameter and have numerous small hooked thorns. The flowers are 18-30 mm in diameter, with 5 petals – white in the centre grading to pink with multiple yellow to burned-orange stamens. The flowers are usually produced in clusters of 2-7. Flowering occurs from Oct – Dec. The fruit – called “hip” (hence the common rose-hip association) are globose to oblong, deep red and 10-20 mm in diameter.
R. rubigonosa can be trimmed to make a stunning and effective hedge. Many also value the plant for its pleasant scent.
Food & Drink
The petals can be used to draw an infusion of sweet scented flower-water. The hips can be used to make, jam, jelly, syrup, rose hip soup, beverages, pies, bread, wine, and marmalade. They can also be eaten raw, like a berry, if care is used to avoid the hairs inside the fruit. The young flexible green stems can be peeled-back to reveal a succulent section of the plant reminiscent of cucumber in taste and texture (edible –chew and swallow). The hips and stems have often been used by herdsmen and young boys of the Sesotho culture to appease their appetites, especially during summer.
The hips are a nutrient-rich source of nourishment. 100 grams of the hips may contain up to 710% the r.D.A. of vitamin C. Hips are also rich in vitamin A, (86%), Calcium (16%), B-6 (5%), D, E, iron (6%), magnesium (17%), K, Protein, sugar, fibre, essential fatty-acids and flavonoids . Rose-hip syrups were developed during World War 2 at a time when citrus was difficult to import and soldiers needed a dose of vitamin C to stave of colds and flu. Rose-hips also possess compounds found to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis – apparently due to both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
According to SANBI, R. rubigonosa is a declared category 1 invader species in S.A. and has become naturalised in the EC, WC, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpum, North-West and Limpopo.