Three "wild" roses native to Iowa can be considered the state flower: Rosa arkansana, Rosa blanda, and Rosa carolina. The individual species are difficult to tell apart because they are very similar in appearance and they hybridize easily and naturally.
Rosa arkansana is a small shrub that is common on upland prairies, sandy prairies, roadsides, and in other open places. It grows up to 3 feet tall and blooms in June with masses of pink to dark pink, fragrant blossoms. The small, red, apple-shaped hips appear in late summer. It is said that three rose hips from wild rose contain as much vitamin C as one orange. Meskwaki and Menomini Indians boiled the hips to make a syrup for various food uses. Indians and pioneers ate the hips, flowers, and leaves when other food was scarce. The hips of wild roses are considered an important food source for wildlife.
Rosa blanda is similar to Rosa arkansana but the dark red stems are mostly smooth with few prickles. The leaves usually have fewer leaflets (5-7) and have few hairs on the leaflets.