This flower is the traditional ‘white rose of Scotland’, eulogised in song and poetry and second only to the Scottish thistle in emblematic renown. The Latin name spinosissima, means ‘having many spines’. It is a deciduous shrub forming dense patches on sand dunes, sandy heaths and further inland in limestone soils, around the coast of Scotland and the inner Hebrides, but not seen on the outer Hebrides or Northern Isles.
This plant spreads by suckers and new stems are crowded with straight prickly spines mixed with stiff bristles. Its leaves are pinnate with 7 to 11 rounded and neatly toothed leaves on each stem, giving a fern-like appearance to the foliage. Leaves are 5-20mm long.
Flowers have 4 white petals, moving to creamy yellow at the centre of each, and the flower is 2.5 to 4cm in diameter. Stamens are many and yellow. The fruit is a black hip, which is another way to easily identify this rose – all other hips are red. These hips produce a dye which when mixed with alum becomes a deep purple shade traditionally used in the making of tartan cloth.