A medium-sized, thorny shrub with a spreading growth form, often forming thickets.
Leaves are alternate, compound, divided into 5-11 leaflets (usually 7-9). Each leaflet is broadly oval and toothed along the edge.
Blooms May through June. Flowers are clustered, numerous, white, 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches across. The clusters are rounded or pyramidal and 3-6 inches across.
Fruits are small, firm, red hips that may remain on the plant well into winter.
Similar species: Examine the small leafy appendage (stipule) that hugs the stem at the base of each compound leaf. On multiflora rose, the edges of the stipules are fringed with many teeth, resembling a comb. Our native roses, however, have stipules with smooth margins (no teeth).