Rosa Blanda by A. BarraPhoto by A. Barra

Fast Facts

  • Adopted the Iowa state flower in 1897
  • Botanical name: Rosa blanda, carolina or arkansana
  • Also known as Arkansas rose, prairie wild rose, or Prairie Rose
  • Wild rose trivia: Rose hips from the wild rose are used in cooking to make a sweet jelly
  • Iowa Flower Delivery

To the early European settlers of the United States, the wild rose of Iowa represented resilience and beauty. Despite the state’s dry, flat landscape, the flower bloomed every year in the early summer. Lawmakers felt that the hardy flower symbolized the state so well that they had its picture etched on a silver tea service that was presented to the crew of the U.S.S. Iowa in 1896.

Not long after, the State Federation of Women’s Clubs meeting in Dubuque recommended that the wild rose become the state flower. The Iowa State Legislature agreed and in 1897, the wild rose became the official Iowa state flower.

Wild Rose by Frank MayfieldPhoto by Frank Mayfield

In their legislation, however, lawmakers choose not to single out a specific species of the rose as the state flower. Instead, they agreed to make any wild rose within the state’s boundaries the Iowa state flower. To this day, that agreement is still in effect.

Several wild rose species are native to Iowa and telling them apart is often quite challenging. These wild rose species have similar appearances and also have the natural ability to hybridize in the wild. In particular, three species are frequently identified as the Iowa state flower. These three species include the Rosa arkansana, the Rosa blanda and the Rosa Carolina. The Rosa arkansana grows only in the western quarter of the state. The plant can grow up to three feet tall and blooms with numerous pink to dark pink flowers in June. The Rosa blanda is found in the state’s prairies and open woodlands in the northern half of Iowa. It reaches heights of up to four feet and in each year during the month of June, it bursts with showy pink flowers that last throughout the summer. The Rosa Carolina blooms in the meadows and in the woodlands throughout the state. The Rosa Carolina can also be seen throughout the state’s most populated cities of Cedar Falls, Davenport and Des Moines . Even Though the Iowa state flower does well in the wild, it is also found in home gardens as an ornamental bush.

Long before Iowans came to appreciate the wild rose, Native Americans valued it for its medicinal and nutritional value. They boiled the “fruit’ of the roses, called rose hips, to make eye drops to treat eye infections. They also produced syrup from rose hips to treat stomach ailments and ate the hips, leaves and flowers of the wild rose when food became scarce.

Modern herbalists and advocates of traditional medicine continue to value the rose hips of the wild rose. Just three rose hips are said to contain as much Vitamin C as a single orange.


Iowa State University, University Extension: Horticulture and Home Pest News

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