Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest
The Bald Hip Rose is a spindly shrub about 1.5 m tall with slender stems, usually with numerous soft and straight thorns which are sometimes unarmed, especially on younger stems. Leaves are in groups of up to 9 and up to 4 cm long.
Flowers are up to 2.5 cm across and a pale pink to rose color with 5 petals. Fruits are orange to scarlet hips that are shaped like pears and are 6 to 10 mm across.
As with all species of wild rose the springtime tender shoots were sometimes eaten or made into medicine by the First peoples. A pleasant tea can be made from the young leaves and twigs and used as a tonic.
A decoction made by boiling branches or strips of bark was used also as an eyewash for sore eyes, for cataracts or to enhance eyesight. The Makah mashed the leaves as a poultice for sore eyes and any type of abscess. The chewed leaves were applied to bee stings, and the ripe hips were steeped, mashed and fed to babies with diarrhea. Leaves and bark were dried and toasted, and the resulting powder was smoked to relax.
As with several rose species, hips were eaten sparingly when ripe by many Northwest Coast Peoples, including the Cowichan, Saanich, Ditidaht, Nuu-chah-nulth and Makah.
The outer rind of the fruit only was eaten, because the seeds contain hairs that are irritating to the digestive tract, and are said to give one an itchy bottom.
When the hips change from a dark green to reddish color, gathering may begin, and continue thereafter. Hips should be collected promptly as they disappear from the plants quite rapidly by bird and mammal predation. Gloves should be worn.