Why do roses have thorns?

Rose_PricklesThis may seem like a question for poets, but botanists know why roses have thorns.

First of all, to set the record straight, roses do not have thorns. They have prickles. Thorns are modified leaf stems or parts of leaves, while prickles grow from the epidermis or cortex.

Rose prickles serve to keep away predators. Rose plants are tasty, according to deer. The prickles, sometimes brightly colored, say “keep away!” This message is also directed at you, Mr. and Ms. Florist. Roses don’t want their flowers stolen.

But most rose prickles curve down to serve another, more insidious purpose. When roses grow, they clamber over other plants. The prickles serve as hooks to help anchor rose branches into their unfortunate neighbors. But as the roses grow, they can monopolize the sunshine, and the plants they grow over will starve and die. Roses don’t care.

Thus we can conclude that if someone gives you a rose, this is hardly an act of love. The flower didn’t want to be harvested and handed over to you, and roses are nasty plants anyway.

Poets, take note. Rather than roses, praise the love apple. When it turns a beautiful color and becomes aromatic, it’s inviting you to take it and share it as a true symbol of esteem, nurture, and even passion. Nothing says love like a tomato.

heart-shaped-tomato (2)

2 thoughts on “Why do roses have thorns?

  1. Hi Sue Burke,
    I am sooraj Raveendran, from india working as a middle school science teacher. I am curious to know more the importance or role of spikes on rose plant.
    I really appreciate the way you composed this content. It is precise and concise.

    I have couple of question.
    1. What is the original habitat of rose plant.
    2. Does the spines play a role in reducing the transpiration.
    3. Does the spikes always keep the herbivores away ?


    1. Hello Sooraj,
      I’m afraid I’m not a botanist, so I can’t answer those questions very well. As far as I know, rose species are native to much of the world. Since the prickles are actually part of the stem, they might actually transpire water. As for herbivores, I know that deer eat roses, but around here in North America, deer seem to eat anything and everything.
      I hope this helps a little.


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