Rosa chinensis Jacq.

First published in Observ. Bot. 3: 7 (1768)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is China (Sichuan, Hubei, Guizhou). It is a shrub and grows primarily in the temperate biome. It is used to treat unspecified medicinal disorders, as a medicine, has environmental uses and for food.


Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 1000 - 3000 m.; Andes, Islas Caribeñas.
Morphology General Habit

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Alt. 1000 - 3000 m.
Cultivated in Colombia.
Not Evaluated.
Morphology General Habit

Biogeografic region: Andean, Caribbean. Elevation range: 1000–3000 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Boyacá, Caldas, Cundinamarca, Nariño, Norte de Santander, San Andrés y Providencia, Santander, Tolima, Valle del Cauca.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.
Rosa china

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Flowers of the China rose can vary greatly in colour and may open red, creamy white, or unusually a beautiful pale pink that later becomes red. This hardy rose is renowned for darkening over time, whereas other species lighten after opening.

The Chinese have a long history of growing roses for both ornamental and medicinal purposes. Repeat-flowering roses were amongst cultivated plants introduced to Europe from China in the late 18th century.

Rosa chinensis, described and illustrated by Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727-1817) in 1768, is the ancestor of many of the popular cultivated roses found in gardens around the world today.

Species Profile
About the two varieties

Rosa chinensis var.  chinensis is an ancient Chinese ornamental plant from which many widely cultivated horticultural forms originate. 

Rosa chinensis var.  spontanea is the wild variety and was collected by Augustine Henry near the Ichang Gorges in western Hubei and formally described as a variety in 1914. Although collected several times in the early 20th century, it was not seen again by foreign botanists until 1983 when it was rediscovered by the Japanese botanist Mikinori Ogisu at 1,700 m in Leibo, south-western Sichuan.

Geography and distribution

Rosa chinensis var. spontanea is native to central China, in Gansu, Guizhou, Hubei and Sichuan, usually on limestone and shale at elevations between 500-1,950 m. Rosa chinensis var. chinensis is only known from cultivation.


Overview: In the wild, this is an evergreen climber or large shrub with arching, scrambling branches up to 8 m or more when climbing in trees. The young shoots have hooked crimson thorns, whereas side shoots have fewer, scattered thorns.

Leaves: Leaves have 3, 5 or sometimes 7 lanceolate leaflets, shiny dark green above, paler below, with finely toothed margins. The terminal leaflet is largest, measuring 4.5-6.0 cm long.

Flowers: In the wild form, Rosa chinensis var. spontanea flowers appear on short side shoots from March to May and are single. In the cultivated Rosa chinensis var. chinensis , flowers are single, double or semi-double and appear throughout the year. There are 5 sepals, the largest up to 3 cm long, lanceolate, and reflexed after the flower opens. There are usually 5 petals, each broadly ovate, 3-4 cm long and wide, opening pink, buff or cream with red lines, usually becoming red-purple on exposure to sunlight, sometimes opening red or purplish.

Fruits:  The hips (fruits) are round and green, becoming orange-yellow, with usually only 2 or 3 large seeds per hip and a hard seed coat.

Threats and conservation

Rosa chinensis var. spontanea is locally abundant.


Rosa chinensis is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Roots and fruits are used for treating arthritis, boils, cough, haemuturia and rheumatoid joint pains. The fruit is applied to sprains, ulcers and wounds. Flower buds are used as a tonic, circulatory stimulant, emmangogue (stimulating blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus) and menstrual regulator and for chest and abdominal pain and distension. The flowers contain an aromatic essential oil. The fruit, flowers and young shoots are edible.

China rose is the ancestor of many of the popular cultivar groups of roses, such as hybrid tea and floribunda, so common in gardens today.


Rosa chinensis var. spontanea is easily cultivated and will thrive on a warm wall or in the open garden. Because of its early flowering and leafing, in March or early April in China, in February or March in England, it requires shelter from late frosts, snow and heavy rain, which damage the young shoots. Flowering takes place on two year-old and older shoots, so it is important not to prune the stems until they have flowered or are at least three years old. Leaves may become affected by blackspot but not seriously enough to cause defoliation. Propagation is by cuttings or budding. Seeds require a cold winter with some light frost to germinate, which can often take three or more years.

Rosa chinensis var. chinensis is equally easy to grow. It is a smaller, repeat-flowering shrub and flowers may be open at any time of year if the weather is warm enough. In some cultivars, flowers are red in warm weather and pink when it is cold. Flowering is on new wood, so plants may be pruned hard in the spring to flower through the summer. Propagation is usually by cuttings or budding.

Kew's work on authentication of economically important species

Since the early 1990s there has been a large increase in the diversity of plant-based products entering world trade for use in cosmetics, herbal medicines (especially traditional Chinese medicines), functional foods, potpourri, colouring agents and pet products. Kew is investigating these using a range of morphological as well as chemical and DNA fingerprinting methods to identify the species of plants being traded and studying whether plant-derived products contain the appropriate range of compounds associated with their proposed use.

Over 1,000 species and over 1,500 plant extracts have been studied so far. Although in most cases the correct species has been traded, Kew has encountered a few incidents when incorrect species or poor quality substitutes have been used. Other issues relate to the over-exploitation of some species, especially those that are wild harvested where there is a need to develop sustainable harvesting practises to avoid adulterants or poor quality material entering the trade.

Find out more about this project

This species at Kew

Rosa chinensis is found in the rose collection just south of the Palm House. Rosa chinensis var. spontanea seen today at Kew was collected by the Kew Sichuan expedition and planted in 1991. The specimens are unusual in having creamy-white not pink or red flowers.

Pressed and dried specimens of Rosa chinensis are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Rocky slopes and hills.
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

None known.


Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia.

rosa china


Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016, Instituto Humboldt 2014).

Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.

Ornamental, medicine.

Common Names

China Rose, China rose
Rosa china.


  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Plants and People Africa
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    • ColPlantA database