Why Do Roses Have Thorns? Interesting Facts You Didn't Know Before

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Jan 25, 2024 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Background of pink orange and peach roses.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 10.3 Min

Roses are one of the most beautiful flowers with a lovely fragrance and are used for many different purposes.

They symbolize love and friendship. They come in different colors including red, yellow, white, pink, purple and many more and there are around 100 species of roses found around the world.

Roses come in a million different colors around the world. The various colors of roses have different meanings like the red color means love, passion, and sacrifice. Yellow ones mean wisdom and joy and pink roses mean gratitude and peace. Purple and lavender are considered the same and mean wonder, awe, and change for the better. Roses can be grown in places like your garden and they need proper and regular gardening by a gardener to keep them healthy and nourished so their beauty can be maintained. They have also been used for commercial perfumery and commercial cut flower crops. Many of them are also used for landscape plants, game cover, and slope stabilization.

The main reason why roses have thorns is simply that they naturally come with sharp thorns around them, which are also called prickles and named by botanists. They are generally small outgrowths from the plant's outer layer or epidermis. Rose prickles are quite similar to thorns but are not precisely like thorns and they can be easily removed, but thorns are not so easy to be removed. The main reason why roses have thorns is that many predators eat them because of their fresh and sweet fragrance. People from America believed that many years ago the rose bush had no thorns. There was only a stem on the plant's outer part and they were filled with pink petals with a sweet emanating fragrance. The thorns in rose plants are very deeply embedded in the woody structure and can not be broken off easily. Their sweet smell also makes bushes of roses to be eaten by animals like rabbits and also predators. At times, the entire bush with stems is caught by animals and they eat the whole bush including the flowers and petals!

Earlier, it was believed that rose bushes went to Nanahboozoo, a man with magical powers who became angry about the fact that the rose bushes which he planted were always eaten by animals. Therefore, the rose bushes who came to see him told the whole story in front of him and he gave them thorns or small-sized prickles to protect themselves so that animals like rabbits and other predators stayed away from them. This is why roses have thorns and prickles that protect them from such animals and predators. Thorns allow roses to grow more beautiful year by year without facing any danger.

If you wish to learn more interesting facts similar to why do roses have thorns, you can also check out why do cells divide and why do your ears pop.

Reasons Why Roses Have Thorns

Right here, you can find all the answers to why do roses have thorns. Thorns make it easy for a rose tree to protect itself from being eaten by animals like rabbits and other predators that are attracted to their sweet and fresh smell. Thorns, spines, and prickles are hard, rigid, pointy projections attached to the branch of the plant and to its stem. There are many plants with thorns but deer still prefer to feed on the bushes of roses even though they have thorns or prickles.

For many people, it is a big unanswered question, do roses have thorns or prickles. For scientists and botanists, it is very easy for them to tell the difference, however many of them still make the mistake and say roses have thorns instead of prickles. There is a huge difference between prickles and thorns. Prickles grow from the epidermis or cortex whereas thorns serve as parts of leaves or modified leaf stems. They particularly do not have thorns but also consist of prickles whose main function is to keep predators away from the bush of these beautiful roses which mostly grow younger year by year in places like a garden or indoor where they can get the proper care. Roses also taste quite delicious and tasty for deer as they still feed on roses even though they have thorns or prickles on them.

These prickles are not just for keeping predators away but also serve another purpose. A rose plant grows and develops to clamber over its neighboring plants, its prickles serve to be a hook, helping the rose branches to clamber over the unfortunate neighbors. When the roses grow fully, they get a monopoly of the sunshine and then the neighboring plant dies. Whenever someone gifts a rose to you, just remember that it is mostly out of love. On the other hand, they have prickles, which may harm your loved ones when you hand them the rose. Therefore, you must offer trimmed thorn roses instead of prickly ones. Most of us have not seen roses without thorns and prickles because roses are incomplete without prickles. There are very rare cases where you find rose plants that lack prickles and thorns.

There are a variety of thornless roses that can be planted in your garden and they are safe to touch. Some of the variety of roses that are thornless and free of prickles are Cinderella miniature roses, Irene Marie miniature roses, Veilchenblau rambler rose, Amadis thornless rambler rose, climbing pinkie rose, yellow lady blanks climber rose, outta the blue shrub rose, smooth prince hybrid tea rose, Hippolyte gallica rose, Oceana hybrid tea rose, and Leander hybrid tea rose. All these categories of thornless roses, as well as prickle-free, are just as beautiful as other species of roses with thorns and prickles. If you want to plant rose flowers in your garden and they consist of thorns or prickle then plant them at the corner of your garden where your pet and children remain away from them. Rose plants with no thorns and prickles may be harmless to touch but they still show the same beauty as others.

Purpose Of Thorns In Roses

There are many purposes as to 'why do roses have thorns'. Roses are basically known for their beauty and fragrance but scientists said that 'every rose has its own thorn' which is means to taunt someone who is beautiful yet has a prickly personality. In the case of roses, what we see and believe are thorns, are actually not thorns. They are sometimes prickles that look similar to thorns. They are quite sharp and also strong as the material grows from the stem of the plant. It is a human tendency to call every sharp-pointed thing a thorn even when it is not always a thorn. Earlier, roses with thorns were considered a sign of religious symbols and during the early middle ages, they started denoting symbols of Roman excess and debauchery. Even though these thorns can harm a gardener or the people who pluck the flower from the plant, it is in the plant for a practical purpose. This shows that thorns and prickles are the reason why roses live longer even after having so many predators and humans who want to pluck these flowers from their plants. This is related to a saying that 'every rose has its own thorn'. In an article, the idea of semiosis was mentioned and and the notion that nothing says love like a rose.

Thorns are pointed, hard, and woody structures that grow from the epidermis of branches according to the American Rose Society and also according to science. On the other hand, prickles are soft growths. Roses which are evolved with prickles mostly use these for defense and have been adapted as a form of protection. The prickles which have developed on the rose for defense are bent a little as a curve to prevent them from being eaten by predators and other animals. Roses belong to the Rosacea family, and other members of the same family, like blackberries and raspberries, also consist of prickles. Thorns or prickles have very pointed protrusions that are harmful when you try to touch them. Roses do not contain thorns but prickles that are spiny and these help roses fight off predators. There are many plant species that have prickles. These plant species, mainly roses, with thorns symbolize adversity and sacrifice as well. Thorns or prickles are grown on the outer layers of the plant surface and stem. 

A red rose in the pewter vase put.

Are thorns in roses poisonous?

Yes, thorns or prickles present in roses could be poisonous as they are capable of delivering bacteria and fungi into your skin and cause infection. This is why it is said that you should wear clothes like surgical gloves or tie a piece of cloth around your hand to protect you from these thorns.

The pain from getting poked by these thorns and prickles could be excruciating, especially if it pokes you on a very sensitive part of the skin. There is a stem of green color on the plant's outer part and many people call these thorns. If you have proper knowledge about this flower or you are a botanist then you know and would call this green stem a prickle. This totally disagrees with the definition of a thorn. The answer to this one is that no matter how beautiful these flowers may be, years ago it was discovered that these prickles can penetrate your skin easily and can spread infection into the wound and around the body. The work of these prickles present on the outer layer of this pink beautiful flower may infect you with various diseases

The first thing these prickles may infect us with is dirt, fertilizer, bacteria, fungi, and garden chemicals. This all could be spread by a single thorn present in the plant and can lead to a number of diseases which include sporotrichosis, plant thorn synovitis, and mycetoma. The phrase that 'every rose has a thorn' has been heard by you million times and as roses have thorns, these thorns can sometimes harm you. This is something that is still unknown to many people. Any complications after handling a rose, there is a solution to this problem. If any infection is caused by the thorns embedded in the plants, then there are some treatments. The first disease named sporotrichosis, also called rose picker's disease, is caused by a fungus that enters our skin via a small cut, scrape, or puncture, such as from a rose thorn which can be treated by a doctor's prescription after the first treatment through a dose of amphotericin B. The next disease in discussion is 'plant thorn synovitis' which is caused by a plant thorn, through penetrating a joint which can be cured by removal of the thorn through a surgery known as synovectomy and the last is mycetoma which is usually caused by fungi and bacteria found in water and soil and can be cured by antibiotics.

Should you remove thorns from roses?

Earlier in the article, the question we were answering was why do roses have thorns?. But now, the main question is should thorns be removed from the rose structure? Roses are loved by millions of people around the world as they are beautiful and have a pleasant scent. As these thorns are attached to the stem on the outer layers of the plant very deeply, it seems difficult to easily break it off.

While removing these thorns, you should remain very careful as it can harm the roses very badly. A stem bark can be left which is not hygienic. If you want to remove the thorns off roses, it must be done carefully, with as little damage to the tissue as possible. Ideally, thorns should not be broken off roses as roses with thorns live much longer than thornless roses. Even other species with thorns live longer than thornless ones as the main task of thorns is to protect the flowers from predators. If the thorns are cut from the stem of the rose, then they will not regrow as they are gone permanently from that plant of rose.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do roses have thorns, then why not take a look at why do boats float or why do people dance.

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Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
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