Are Roses the Only Flower With Thorns?

Whether you’ve handled this popular flower yourself or you just know the common saying that ‘every rose has its thorns,’ you likely know that roses grow protective spines that can sting the unaware admirer. But what purpose do these prickly growths on the stem of the flower serve, and are roses the only type of flower that grow these protective spines?

Roses are not the only flowers that grow thorns, with flowering quince, sea buckthorn, and crown of thorns plants being some of the other common plants that also grow thorns.

I’ll take a closer look at this unique adaptation certain plants such as roses develop to protect themselves in the article below. We’ll take a look at why thorns form in the first place, how to safely handle plants that grow thorns, and other plants besides thorns that use this protective strategy.

Why Do Roses Grow Thorns?

Roses grow thorns as a way of self-defense against potential dangers to the plants. The thorns dissuade intruders such as bugs, deer, and even humans from damaging the plant, making it an adaptation that helps the plant grow and thrive.

You can look at these thorns the same way you can any other evolutionary adaptation. Roses that developed thorns in the wild were more likely to survive than those that didn’t. 

This led to the roses with thorns outcompeting those that didn’t, and over time, only the plants with thorns remained.

For a more in-depth look on the evolutionary adaptations plants use to adapt themselves, you can check out this research from Cornell University.

How To Work Safely With Thorn-Covered Plants

To avoid any minor injury when handling your roses or other thorn-covered plants in your garden, it’s important that you take the proper precautions. Here are a few tips for how you can work safely with this type of plant.

Wear Protective Gloves

A good set of high-quality gardening gloves is a vital tool that everybody can benefit from using, but the need becomes even greater when handling plants that have spines or thorns. If you don’t protect your hands properly, you run the risk of stinging pains caused by the plant’s thorns making contact with your skin or even minor cuts.

Use Thorn-Strippers

Roses make great gifts, whether as a romantic token of affection or just a gift for anybody who can appreciate a beautiful flower. However, the thorns that grow on the stalk of this flower can be dangerous to the recipient of the flower. 

If you want to give a rose or another thorn-covered flower to somebody, or you want to put the flower in a vase and want to avoid any mishaps, you should cut away the thorns from the plant first.

Thorn strippers are specialized tools that are specifically designed to remove thorns easily without causing any further damage to the plant. Thorn removers are available at your garden store or online.

Other Plants That Grow Thorns

Roses aren’t the only type of plant that use thorns to protect themselves. Here are some of the other plants you might encounter that also use this method of defense.


The long vines, beautiful leaves, and colorful flowers of the bougainvillea plant make it a popular addition to gardens all over the world. If you intend to grow this plant, you should train the vine to grow along a fence, trellis, or another structure in order to prevent pests or disease and to encourage the vine to grow to its fullest potential.

Give this plant plenty of warmth and sunshine and you’ll be treated to the beautiful triangular-shaped blossoms that it grows. These flowers come in a variety of different colors that run the full spectrum of the rainbow, including purple, pink, yellow, and orange. The attractive appearance makes this plant the perfect addition to any outdoor space.


Just as the name might suggest, firethorn is another variety of plant that grows spiky thorns to protect itself. This adaptable plant has managed to thrive in regions all over the world, including in North America. 

The sharp spikes that grow on this plant protect the berry-like buds that grow in the late spring on this plant. These buds come in vibrant colors like red, orange, or yellow. While they aren’t safe for human consumption, the berries do provide an eye-catching detail that adds to the appeal this plant brings to your garden.

Flowering Quince

Although the blooms that grow on flowering quince are often compared to roses in terms of their appearance, this is a distinct thorn-producing flower that has a character that’s all its own. Its shiny, dark green leaves love getting plenty of sunshine, so grow this plant in an area that gets high amounts of exposure to the sun.

One distinct characteristic of flowering quince are the apple-like fruits that this plant bears at the end of its flowering period. These small fruits are perfectly edible, so feel free to pluck one off of your shrub and taste it for yourself. The little snack makes the perfect reward for all the hard work you do in your garden.


This evergreen plant has compound leaves and bright red berries that give it quite a charming characteristic. That eye-catching charm is balanced by the protective thorns that grow along the stalks of this plant, warning anybody who comes into contact with it to handle this plant with care to avoid getting stung.

In the flowering phase, this plant grows clusters of yellow cup-shaped blossoms that add a beautiful detail to your landscape. Those clusters eventually give way to the red berries that this plant is known for. The berries are even edible, making this the perfect option to anyone who likes growing edible plants in their garden.

Common Holly

While roses are probably the best-known plant that grows thorns, common holly might just rank second on that list. This beautiful shrub grows to between seven and ten feet (2.13 – 3.04 m) and is quite dense, making it ideal for use as a security or privacy hedge.

The thorny, wavy-edged leaves that give this plant its distinguished look can have a prickly texture if not handled carefully. The easily-identifiable clusters of white blossoms that grow from the branches add an extra flair to this plant that makes it the perfect addition to any outdoor space you want to liven up with a subtle but refined touch.

Sea Buckthorn

This deciduous bush is known for its resilience, being able to thrive in many different conditions. They grow to heights of between eight and twelve feet tall (2.43 – 3.65 m), making them some of the largest shrubs available. They also grow quite dense, making them perfect to use as windbreakers and natural barriers, or simply to add a plant to your garden with an eye-catching stature and presence.

Sea buckthorn is known for the thin, silvery leaves it produces as well as the bright orange-yellow berries that grow in clusters along its stalks. These stalks also have thorns that protect the berries from insects, foraging animals, and other dangers that might interfere with its growth.


While roses might be the best-known thorn-producing plant, they are far from the only flower that grows thorns. Common holly, agarita, and firethorn are just a few examples of other thorn-producing plants you might find in a garden.

With the right equipment to protect yourself, growing roses or any of the other thorn-producing plants can be a rewarding gardening project. Despite their prickly nature, the beautiful flowers these plants produce are a sight to behold.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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