Summary of wild rose and its traditional use

Kumeyaay name: kwa”ak

California Wild Rose (Rosa californica)


The California Wild Rose is native to arid regions and ranges from the coast to the foothills and into the mountains of California, growing best in canyons and moist places. It forms a mounding and spreading thicket (up to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide) of thin, spiny, arching stems. It has small leaves and delicate pink flowers that bloom in the spring and summer and produce red fruits (rose hips). It is winter deciduous but can also go dormant in the summer from lack of water. It attracts bees, butterflies, and birds. Wild Rose has been described as “thorny Velcro,” great for deterring feral cats and wild dogs from attacking animals hiding within its thicket.


Wild Rose petals and rose hips are used by the Kumeyaay in food and tea. An infusion of petals is given to babies with a fever.



photo credit: PKM, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons