What species of rose is the state flower of Iowa?


What species of rose is the state flower of Iowa?


Many settlers in Iowa admired the rose growing wild throughout the state. In 1896, the Iowa legislature selected it as the motif on a silver tea set presented to the U.S. Navy and used on the battleship Iowa. A year later, on May 6, 1897, with the advice of the State Federation of Women's Clubs in Dubuque, the legislature designated the "wild rose" as the state flower of Iowa.

Several wild rose species are native to Iowa. However, the legislature did not designate a specific wild rose species as our state symbol. Three "wild" roses native to Iowa can be considered our state flower: Rosa arkansanaRosa blanda, and Rosa carolina. The individual species are difficult to tell apart because they are very similar in appearance and they hybridize easily and naturally.

Meadow Rose

Rosa blanda (meadow rose) is found in Iowa's prairies, meadows, and open woodlands. This shrub-like plant will grow to four feet tall. It produces large showy pink flowers from June through late summer. The fruit, called "hips", resemble small apples, and are about half-inch in diameter. Rosa blanda is most often given the honor of being the state flower, even though it is common only in the northern half of the state.

Arkansas Rose

Rosa arkansana (Arkansas rose) is quite similar to R. blanda. It is a small shrub that grows in a wide range of soil conditions. This rose is found in prairies, meadows, and open woodlands. It grows up to 3 feet tall and blooms in June with masses of pink to dark pink, fragrant blossoms. The small, red, apple-shaped hips appear in late summer.

Carolina Rose

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose) is another wild rose species that can be seen blooming in meadows and woodlands throughout the state.  The plants grow 1 to 3 feet tall and freely sucker.  Blooms open atop thorny stems in early summer with single, pink, 5-petaled flowers 2 inches wide in small clusters.


  • Nature's Heartland. 1990. Bill Boon and Harlen Groe. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA.
  • Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands. 1995. Sylvan T. Runkel and Alvin F. Bull, Iowa State University Press, Ames IA.
  • "The Goldfinch" newsletter, 1995. vol. 16, no. 3, State Historical Society of Iowa.

Learn more about the state symbols of Iowa in this publication: State Symbols - Iowa's Nature Series

Learn more about growing roses in this article: Growing Roses in Iowa.

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Last updated on
March 19, 2024