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Sweet Briar

Braided River Status

Widespread, see the distribution map (when page opens, just click on the green ‘search’ button without changing any of the settings)


Sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa), a member of the rose family, is a deciduous, erect, occasionally dense, woody shrub that can grow from 3-5m tall with stout branched roots that often sucker. Many arching stems grow from the base, with unequal, flattened, downward-pointing, curved thorns. Apple-smelling leaves are hairless dull-green above, hairy below, and divided into 5-9 narrow-oval leaflets (12-40 x 8-28mm). Clusters of 1-3 pink (or bright pink with whitish base) rose-like, 5-petalled flowers (25-40 mm diameter) appear from November to January (first image), followed by prominent, egg-shaped, shiny red or orange-red rose hips (12-22 x 10-18mm) from February to May (second image).

Sweet briar in flower

Sweet briar in flower

Why is it a problem?

  • Long-lived seeds
  • Spread is also by suckers
  • Tolerates drought, hot to very cold temperatures, wind, low fertility, and most well-drained soils
  • Tolerates being grazed 
  • Forms dense, long-lived stands in tough, open habitats, inhibiting or preventing the seedlings of native species from establishing
  • Can alter riverbeds, causing flooding. Requires moderate to high light levels, and invades only open sites
  • Escapes from gardens
Sweet briar showing rosehips, invading braided riverbeds

Sweet briar showing rosehips, invading braided riverbeds

How is it spread?

  • Seeds by wind and water
  • suckers

Conservation activities

More information