Why do Roses have Thorns?

What are Thorns, and Why do Roses have them? What is the Meaning of Thorns? Which Roses have Thorns and Which varieties are Thornless? What is the Difference between Knockout and Drift Roses?
why do roses have thorns
Photo by Shannon Ferguson on Unsplash

About 94% of plants in the kingdom Plantae are flowering plants. Among all roses are the favorite because different colored roses symbolize different things. However, sometimes I wonder why do roses have thorns on them, what could be the purpose of thorns on roses, and what do thorns symbolize? Thinking about the roses with thorns, you might ask, does every rose have thorns, and especially do knockout roses have thorns? You will get to know all the details along with the answers to do drift roses have thorns.

1. What are Rose Thorns?

The first thing you need to understand is that the sharp protrusions on the stem and branches of plants and trees can be prickles, thorns, and spines. In the words of Botanists, the sharp protrusions on the stems of roses are prickles, which are sometimes referred to as thrones by the common men.

Thrones are basically modified leaf stems and can be present in any part of the leaves. However, prickles are small, pointed, and sharp flanges, but their size is way smaller than the thorns. (See What are the Weeds with Purple Flowers called?)

2. What is the Purpose of Thorns on Roses?

why do roses have thorns 2
Photo by Thomas Curreyer

The first and foremost reason why do roses have thorns is to protect them. Roses are not only attractive to the human eye but also preferred by herbivores and animals as food. So, the purpose of thorns on roses is to help in protecting the plant from getting eaten. Also, check out what do Cherry Blossoms symbolize?

3. Why do Roses have Thorns?

Roses have many intruders, may it be insects or rodents or us humans. They are like those wild plants that have sharp protrusions to protect themselves. Take a look at the following points to know why do roses have thorns:

  • They keep sap-sucking bugs away from the plant.
  • They keep flower-munching herbivores away from the plant.
  • They help in maintaining the dense aroma of the flower.
  • They protect the wild species because there is no gardener to care for and protect the plant.
  • They help the climber roses to grow over their support in the direction of the sunlight.
  • They increase the surface area of the plant that receives sunshine for the process of photosynthesis.  Also, check out how does cactus grow in desert?

4. What do Thorns Symbolize?

Roses are the symbol of love and affection, but do you know that their thorns or prickles also symbolize something? Gradually, from ancient times thorn is known as the symbol of hardship, sin, and sorrow. The thorns of the roses are seen as the symbol of sacrifice and adversity. You must have seen the emblem of Christ’s passion: it is a thorn, in fact, it is a crown of thorns. So, adding the ancient meaning with the usual meaning of rose thorns, they symbolize pleasure and pain. (See Meaning of Different Colour Roses)

5. What are Roses with Thorns?

There are different types of roses that have thorns whose variety is also diverse. Not every rose has the same type of thorn. Some are big while others are small, some are less sharp while others are too sharp, etc. Further in why do roses have thorns, take a look at thorny roses.

Climbing roses, ornamental thorny roses, Rugosa roses, and shrub roses are all species of roses with thorns. Let us take a brief look at their description. 

A. Climbing Roses

why do roses have thorns 3
Photo by Colin Maynard

They have long thick canes of stems that are filled with prickles. These are extremely thorny species of roses which make it difficult to prune. However, people prefer it because they become a good barrier. Also, they grow faster than other varieties. Kiftsgate and Mermaid are two prickliest climber roses. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, Kiftsgate is the fastest-growing rose plant.

B. Ornamental Thorny Rose

This variety of rose is praised for its bright red thorns that are almost saw-toothed. They are preferred for their thorns that make the garden colorful and protect it too. Must read what are the desert cactus types?

C. Rugosa Rose

Rugosa Rose
Image by Freddy from Pixabay

These Asian native plants have dense thorns on the stems. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, this variety of rose is preferred by gardeners for creating a hedge. They are widely liked by coastal gardeners because of their adaptability. 

D. Rose Shrubs (all sizes)

Rose Shrubs
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

According to the Royal Botanical Garden, rose shrubs have thorns that cover their stems densely. Gardeners prefer these bushes for their thorns mostly. Henri Martin, Othello, and Dresden Doll are some medium and short-sized rose bushes with many thorns. (See 25 Best Thornless Roses)

6. Does every Rose have Thorns?

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Photo by Nataly Alhymova

Still, wondering why do roses have thorns. Well, roses have prickles and not thorns. Prickles are specifically modified hairs on the stems, and they lack vascular tissues. Also, not all the varieties and species of roses are covered in thorns because there are some almost thorny and completely thornless rose plants too. These varieties are natural as well as created by crossbreeding. Must read about the types of trees with purple flowers.

7. What are some Varieties of Thornless Roses?

As you are well aware of why do roses have thorns, here I have mentioned some top favorite and most preferred thornless and almost thornless roses. These varieties of thornless roses can be grown at home too.

  • Amadis Thornless Rambler Rose (Crimson Boursault)
  • Cinderella Miniature Roses (Rosa chinensis var. minima)
  • Climbing Pinkie Rose (Polyantha rose)
  • Hippolyte Gallica Rose (Rosa Hippolyte)
  • Irene Marie Miniature Roses (Rosaceae)
  • Leander Hybrid Tea Rose (Rosa x hybrida)
  • Oceana Hybrid Tea Rose
  • Outta the Blue Shrub Rose (Rosa shrub)
  • Smooth Prince Hybrid Tea Rose (Rosaceae)
  • Veilchenblau Rambler Rose (Rosa ‘Veilchenblau)
  • Yellow Lady Banks Climber Rose (Rosa Banksiae). (See 18 Purple Flowering Shrubs For Your Garden)

8. Do Knockout Roses have Thorns?

The widely opened, small-sized flowers that do not have tightly packed petals are the knockout roses. They are highly disease-resistant and easy to care for. These rose shrubs are easy to grow and compact. As they are also from the rose shrub family, they have dense thorns on their stems. It is difficult to prune them, which makes one wonder why roses have thorns. (See Do Sunflowers Grow Back Every Year?)

9. Do Drift Roses have Thorns?

Drift roses are a result of the cross-pollination of miniature roses and full-sized ground cover roses. This hybrid rose is disease resistant and due to their parent miniature plant, they also gained the quality of managed size and repeated blooms. Yes, this variety of rose has few to no thorns. (See How to Grow a Purple Leaf Plum Tree?)

10. What is the Difference between Knockout and Drift Roses?

why do roses have thorns 6
Photo by Henrique Ferreira

These two varieties are most widely preferred. Come let us also take a look at their differences and which one to choose.

  • Knockout roses are bushes or shrubs while the drift roses are arching shaped or as a ground cover.
  • The former does not have a traditionally shaped rose while the latter has traditional shaped flowers.
  • Knockout is not fragrant while some varieties of drift roses can be fragrant.
  • Knockouts are better for longer gardens while drifts are better for smaller spaces.
  • Knockouts have thorns while drifts are almost or completely thornless.
  • Knockout will bloom only till the first frost falls while the drifts are cold and hardy.
  • Knockouts can grow up to a height of 6 feet while drifts are only 3 feet tall.
  • Knockout needs regular or occasional pruning while very less pruning is required by drift roses. Often people wonder why do roses have thorns when they need pruning.
  • Knockouts have blooms in cherry red, hot pink, peach, and yellow shades while drift roses are apricot, coral pink, red, peach, yellow, and white.
  • Both prefer partial to full sun, are low maintenance, disease resistant, drought resistant, and self-cleaners. (See What’s the difference between annuals and perennials?)

I guess now you have got to know why do knockout roses have thorns and do drift roses have thorns too. Also, the reasons behind why do roses have thorns, the purpose of thorns on roses and what do thorns symbolize are well understood. You can now decide which variety of roses with thorns, you want to plant. Well, it is time to ask and trick your friends and family does every rose have thorns?  (Also read What Plants live in the Ocean?)

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