Rose hips are the bulbous ends of the stems that remain after the petals have dropped off; these are the fruit of the plant. They are prized for their nutritional value as a significant source of vitamins C, E, B and carotene. Bioflavonoids present in rose hips benefit health are also thought to impart a health benefit. Most wild species of roses produce rose hips; of these, a few varieties are especially well-known for the fruit.
Rosa canina, or the dog rose, came by its name from the belief that ingesting the hips could cure rabies. Known among rose hips for having a particularly high concentration of vitamin C, the fruits of these European natives are relatively large, red and oval in shape. A reference excerpt from 1898 describes the taste as "rather pleasant, sweetish, acidulous." Europeans incorporated these rose hips into teas, jams and wine. The Swedes even made soup with them.
Salt-tolerant, the rosa rugosa is native to coastal areas in Asia, extending from Siberia to Korea; hence one of its secondary names, Japanese Rose. Rugosa is named for its wrinkled (rugose) petals. The orange-red bulbs on these roses look somewhat squashed and tomato-like. The high vitamin C content of these fruits is obvious in their cranberry-like tanginess.
Western Chinese in origin, the orange-red hips of this plant are very distinctive in shape; reminiscent of ancient clay water jugs. View pictures of the geranium-like flowers and fruits at Flowering Shrub Farm. The Chinese use rose hips in tea and medicines, where they're purported to have a wide variety of healing powers, including boosting the immune system and alleviating urinary tract infections.
The Virginia Rose hails from the eastern part of the United States. Red, almost perfectly-round hips were first ground in earlier times as a food supplement by Native Americans. Medicinal uses included preparations for colds and muscle aches.
Also, known as the Double Cinnamon Rose, growers bred this plant to enhance the vitamin C content of the bulbs. This variety is native to several states in the Great Lakes region of the United States, according to its USDA plant profile.