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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 09, 2006

From: Springfield, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Seed and Plant Sources, Shrubs
Title: Locating Rosa rugosa for Massachusetts
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

There is a shrub that grows out on the Cape especially at the beach. I have always called it Beach Rose and I have heard other people call it a Beach Plum. However, the most recent picture of a Beach Plum doesn't quite fit the shrub that I am thinking of. Could they be one and the same? The flowers almost look similar but the seed pods don't match. The pods on the picture were green and the one on this plant are usually a reddish purple. Also, I would like to plant it in my yard. Is it available?

ANSWER:

Because common names can vary from region to region, and even from person to person, the names Beach Rose and Beach Plum could refer to the same thing. However, Beach Rose usually refers to Rosa rugosa, a common rose introduced from Asia that now grows throughout the US Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Beach Plum is one of the common names for Prunus maritima, a plum native to coastal regions of northeastern North America.

Both are in the rose family, Rosaceae, so the flowers have a similar structure. Those of Prunus maritima are white and those of Rosa rugosa vary from white to deep pink. I'm going to guess that what you saw was Rosa rugosa, since the seed of Prunus maritima is contained in a recognizable plum fruit: a drupe with a stone; I doubt the word “pod” would have occurred to you had you seen the fruit of a Prunus. The seed of Rosa rugosa is carried in what is sometimes called a rose hip, an achene, which is more of a dry seed-carrying structure.

The fruits of both species start out green and then ripen to a reddish purple, red, or orange. The plums of Prunus maritima are highly edible. They have been especially popular in the Northeast, where they have been in cultivation since the nineteenth century. Several edible varieties have been developed over the years, some of which produce yellow fruit.

Both species are available commercially. Rosa rugosa is widely available and often called Rugosa Rose. See our National Suppliers Directory and this website for information on where to purchase Prunus maritima.

 

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