Why Do Roses Have Thorns?

Why Do Roses Have Thorns?Every rose has a thorn. You’ve heard the phrase a million times, but have you ever wondered why? If you could change one thing about the rose, it would undoubtedly be the sharp protrusions that can catch and poke you. In this article, we will show what a thorn is, why they exist, and how to live with them or without them.

Thorns are the roses best defense mechanism. They exist to ward off any unwanted attention from insects, mammals, and any other predator that it may come in contact with.

Now that you know the primary purpose of the thorn, let’s dive into what makes a thorn a thorn and why nature created such a formidable opponent on such a beautiful flower. Whether you’re looking for a safer way to have roses in your home or trying to grow them in your garden, we can help you find the best way to give this beautiful flower the limelight it deserves without the thorn pricks you don’t!

 The Prickly Debate

Would your world be turned upside down if I told you roses didn’t even actually have thorns? If you research the thorn as a stand-alone entity, you’ll find there is an ongoing debate of the thorn versus the prickle. Let’s get technical for just a moment. A true scientist would call what we’ve referred to as a thorn our entire lives a prickle. The prickle is what we see on a rose, it is easily removed and only an addition to the plant’s epidermis. A thorn is a more embedded part of the plant’s stem structure and much more difficult to remove. For the purposes of this article, we are going to refer to them as the widely known thorn, but now that you’re an expert, you can sound like a botanist and impress your friends.

Defense Mechanism

First off, it is important to know that those pesky thorns are necessary. The flower needs them to establish a layer between the stem and a predator, so a rose can defend itself against an attack. They may be ugly, but they are effective. Animals, insects, even humans can get stuck by a thorn and it will show you how incredible nature is at protecting itself.

How to Remove a Rose Thorn

If you have committed to the beauty of a rose garden, then you’ll need to know there are a lot of ways you can combat a stubborn thorn. For small jobs, you’ll need a pair of thick gloves to start, and a pair of scissors.

You can either cut off the prickly part of the thorn alone or try to get to the base for a cleaner cut. Either way, you will have a much safer stem to work with. If you have a bigger project, I would recommend a thorn cutter/stripper. Just be careful not to strip the actual stem and pull the thorn away so you do not damage the stem!

Thornless Rose Varieties

If you want to avoid hours of labor and pulling thorns off altogether, then it is important to know that not all roses actually have thorns. There are over 100 different varieties of roses out there, and they all differ in fragrance and color.  There are all kinds of thornless roses: climbing, English, grandiflora, and hybrid tea.

Thornless Climbing Roses

The most popular thornless rose is the Thornless Climbing Rose. If you’re picturing a rose-covered archway leading into a secret garden, this the what you’re thinking of! It can grow to be up to 12 feet tall and can offer a simpler solution for those with young children or someone who doesn’t want the hassle of taking thorns off their roses!

David Austin's"James Galway" is one of the most popular thornless climbing roses, with large pink blooms and a heavy old-fashioned rose scent.

Thornless English Roses

English roses are known for their heady fragrance and old-fashioned, globe-shaped blooms. The Brother Cadfael rose is a beautiful pink thornless variety of English rose available from David Austin.

Thornless Heirloom Roses

Heirloom roses are a variety of rose that has remained true to its breeding for generations. One gorgeous example is the Reine des Violettes from David Austin.

Thornless Hybrid Tea Roses

"Bride's Dream" is one of the very rare thornless hybrid tea roses available. Its delicate cream-colored blooms are perfect for a bridal bouquet.


Choose the Plant that's Right for You

In the world of roses, thorns can come with the territory. With your new-found knowledge, you can handle thorns and embrace prickles like a pro. Or, choose a thornless variety to avoid dealing with thorns altogether, just choose the plant that is right for you and your garden space!




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