Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from Europe and Asia, Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa) is an upright, thorny, shrub to 3 m tall, with leaves with 5–7 leaflet 2–5 cm long, and pink flower to 5 cm across.
  • The young plants are fragile, but plants can be problematic once well established.
  • Occurs in all Australian states and territories (except for the Northern Territory).
  • It invades native degraded pastures, bushland, open woodland, riparian habitats, roadsides, fence-lines, and pastures, mostly in temperate lowlands or low mountain slopes.
  • It can reduce land productivity and restrict stock movement and access to water.
  • Dense patches can harbor pest species such as rabbits.
  • The seeds produce an allelopathic compound that can inhibit germination in other species.
  • Can be controlled by physical, mechanical means and herbicides.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa) is an upright, partially winter deciduous shrub, usually growing 1.5–2 m high, but may be up to 3 m. The stems may be upright or arching, are smooth and green to reddish-brown when young, becoming rough and woody with age. The stems bear numerous backwards curving flat prickles 1–1.5 cm long. The alternately arranged leaves are composed of 5–7 leaflets, which are 10–40 mm long and 5–28 mm wide, ovate (shaped like a section through the long axis of an egg and attached by the wider end) to broadly oval shaped (broad-elliptic), serrated (toothed) along the leaf edges, and rounded at the base and tip. A stipule, a conspicuous leafy bract (or modified leaf), is present at the base of each leaf. The leaf and flower stalks (petioles and pedicels), stipule margins, and lower leaf surfaces are densely covered in stout glandular hairs that emit an apple like fragrance.

The pink to pinkish-white flowers are 2–5 cm across and are borne in small clusters (corymbs) or individually.  The flowers have 5 serrated or lobed sepals that become reflexed after flowering, and 5 petals obovate (shaped like a section through the long axis of an egg and attached by the thinner end) to sub-orbicular (almost rounded), 0.8–2.5 cm long, notched at the tip, with many stamens (male reproductive organs) and many free styles (male reproductive organs). 

The fruit (known as a hip) is orange to orange-red to almost black with age, oval or egg-shaped rosehip (capsule) 1.5–2 cm long, and with a few small bristles at the base, glabrous (smooth without hairs) or with glandular hairs and bristles, sepals often persistent.. Each capsule contains numerous yellow seeds 0.4–0.7 mm long) (Symon 1986; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Sweet Briar, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Sweet Briar invades a wide variety of areas including lowland grassland, grassy woodland, sclerophyll forests, riparian habitats, alpine and sub-alpine vegetation, pastures and pine plantations (Blood 2001). It occurs mostly in lightly shaded or sunny positions (Muyt 2001), and is most likely to establish in well-drained areas with moderate to high fertility, and with little competition with other plants (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). It does not tolerate grazing by stock, or persist in well maintained pastures. It is most common in cooler regions of higher rainfall, but will also grow in the moist gullies and protected areas of drier areas. Heavy infestations typically occur in hilly or rocky areas near trees, creek banks, or fence lines, and roadsides (Clements et al. 2005). It can tolerate frost, drought and a variety of soil conditions, with the exception of sandy and poorly drained sites (Blood 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Are there similar species?

Sweet Briar can be confused with Dog Rose (Rosa canina) and McCartney Rose (R. bracteata). Sweet Briar can be distinguished from both of these species by its glandular (sticky) hairs or spines on the flower stalks (flower stalks are hairless on Dog Rose and densely hairy or spiny on McCartney Rose), and glandular hairs on the underside of the leaves (leaves are mostly hairless on Dog Rose and McCartney Rose) (Navie 2004).

These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

Sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa) has flower stalks and sepals with sticky (i.e. glandular) hairs or spines. Its leaves have sticky (i.e. glandular) hairs on their undersides, and along their margins, and the leaflets have almost rounded tips. Its flowers are pink or white in colour and the bases of its fruit are sometimes adorned with bristles and/or small spines.

dog rose (Rosa canina) has hairless (i.e. glabrous) flower stalks and sepals. Its leaves are mostly hairless with leaflets that have pointed tips. Its flowers are pale pink to bright pink in colour and its fruit are hairless (i.e. glabrous) and unadorned, except for the remains of the sepals.

Macartney rose (Rosa bracteata) has flower stalks and sepals that are densely covered with hairs or spines. Its leaves are mostly hairless, except for a few hairs on their midrib. Its flowers are white in colour and its fruit are densely hairy (i.e. pubescent).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Sweet briar can reduce the carrying capacity of land, harbour rabbits, restrict vehicle access and restrict stock movements, especially where it occurs in clumps or patches (DPI NSW 20219). 

Agriculture: Sweet Briar can reduce the carrying capacity of agricultural land, restrict stock movement and vehicle access, and harbour pest species such as rabbits; particularly where it grows in dense patches (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Clements et al. 2005). Sweet Briar can compete with neighbouring pasture plants, significantly reducing productivity. Young plants and suckers can be suppressed by rabbit and stock grazing but mature woody plants are highly unpalatable to stock and reduce the presence and productivity of desirable pasture species through competition. Its prickly nature can also restrict stock movement and access to water, and deter grazing close to clumps. The dense patches can harbour pest species such as rabbits (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001) and it is also a potential biosecurity risk from their ability to host fruit fly.  It is also a pest plant of pine plantations and roadsides.

Native ecosystems: Sweet Briar invades a wide variety of areas including lowland grassland, grassy woodland, sclerophyll forests, riparian habitats, alpine and sub-alpine vegetation, pastures and pine plantations (Blood 2001). Heavy infestations typically occur in hilly or rocky areas near trees, creek banks, or fence lines (Clements et al. 2005). Commonly seen growing along native roadside corridors out-competing native plants.  Although the seedlings have a low survival rate, once established, plants may be highly competitive (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Established plants can alter native plant community composition by out-competing shrubs and preventing overstorey regeneration (Muyt 2001).

How does it spread?

Originally, Sweet Briar was widely spread by deliberate plantings as an ornamental or hedge plant. Now it is almost entirely dispersed by seed, which are highly viable and can be carried some distance by birds and foxes, which eat the brightly coloured fruit and deposit the seed in another area. Seeds may also be transported by streams and water flowing off steep country. Sweet Briar can also reproduce vegetatively from perennial root systems that sucker and crown (region where the stem and roots join) fragments (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Blood 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Sweet Briar was introduced into Australia as an ornamental, hedge, and food plant in the early 1800s, possibly as early as 1803 (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

The following control methods are those used for Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa), and Dog Rose (Rosa canina) should be treated in the same manner.

Non-chemical control: Smaller plants can be effectively removed by hand removal or grubbing (Muyt 2001) although this method an be labour intensive and time consuming. Established plants can be removed by hand, grubbing, bulldozing, or tractor, and their removal is more effective when the ground is wet (Clements et al. 2005). The crown of larger plants should be fully removed to prevent regrowth, and fruits should be disposed of safely (Muyt 2001). Deep cultivation can also be effective on arable land, and will expose and kill much of the root system, but follow-up cultivation in summer will be necessary to eradicate any remaining roots, and in autumn to prevent seedling growth (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Cultivation can, however, be problematic if plants are large and well established (Clements et al. 2005). Goats and sheep can be used to control larger infestation, and goats can destroy larger plants over time (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Goats are known to provide continuous pressure to the plants that they have a tendency to prefer over many pasture species. An advantage of using goats to control both species is that they can also provide a cash return.

Chemical control: Larger plants can be treated with herbicide with a cut-and-paint method, preferably before the fruits ripen in summer and autumn.  Techniques such as ‘cut and paint’ are useful for small numbers of plants. Follow-up treatments may be necessary to prevent regrowth. Alternatively, larger infestations may be foliar sprayed with non-selective or selective herbicides, applied near to the flowering period, and when the plant is actively growing. Selective herbicides appear to be more effective. Cleared sites should always be monitored regularly and any regrowth controlled with follow-up herbicide treatment (Muyt 2001). For removal of this plant from environmentally sensitive areas, a basal bark herbicide treatment can be used (see Clements et al. 2005).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

The seeds of Sweet Briar can germinate at any time of the year, but germination usually occurs in early spring. After experiencing the cold and moist winter period, seed dormancy is broken and warmer weather triggers seedling emergence in a process called cold stratification (Blood 2001). The seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 4 years. Young seedlings are not very vigorous and can be easily out-competed. Plants are slow to reach maturity with flowering generally only occurring after 3 years of vegetative growth, usually in late spring. Seedling survival may be enhanced on disturbed sites where competition with other plants is minimal. Sweet Briar is deciduous, shedding its leaves in autumn, and producing new canes and leaves the following spring. Plants consisting of several hundred canes can develop within a few years if conditions are favourable (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Sweet Briar occurs in all Australian states and territories (with the exception of the Northern Territory), but is considered to be most problematic in cooler areas of higher rainfall, particularly in South Australia, Tasmania and in highland areas of New South Wales and Victoria. It grows best in cooler, wetter climates; however, its distribution does extend into some semi-arid to arid areas in South Australia. It occurs throughout Tasmania, growing along roadsides and in pastures. Sweet Briar is found in south-western Western Australia but it is not widespread and thus is not a significant problem. In Queensland its distribution is restricted to a small area in the south-east (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Sweet Briar is native to western Asia (Iran, Iraq, and Turkey) and much of Europe (GRIN 2008). It is considered to be weedy in some parts of its natural range e.g. England, Scotland and Turkey (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Rosa rubiginosa

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Briar Rose, Sweet Briar Rose, Eglantine

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