It was a little bird that told how the wild rose came to be growing in the wild garden.

There wasn't another wild rose anywhere in the neighborhood. Roses are something like human babies. They do not like the smoky air of cities. You can coax garden roses to bloom in front door yards and parks, but wild roses stay outside, where the air is pure and sweet.

When winter came, and the gray weed-stalks rustled their dry seed-cases in the wind, the rose seemed the only live thing in the waste place. Its thorny, leafless canes were a bright red-brown. Its scarlet seed-hips glowed like little coals of fire above the first November snow. The rose-hips were as big and heavy and red as the little apples of the hawthorn tree. And they were so firmly fastened to the woody stems that the wind could not loosen them. Some foolish robins, who had stayed in the north too long, made a breakfast of the rose-hips and started south for the winter.

Birds have perfect little mills of stomachs for grinding worms and seeds, but rose-hips are so thick and hard that it must take the birds days to digest them. The seeds inside are like little stones wrapped in spiny hairs, so they pass right through the birds unharmed, and are planted far away. In this way the wild rose has been scattered by birds over many parts of the northern world, from very cold countries almost to the hot tropics, and far up mountain sides. Some bird had dropped rose seed in that jungle of sturdy weeds in the city. It took root and grew there, because it happened to fall on a bit of soft, rich ground near a rotting stump of scrub oak. But it never grew very large or bore many blossoms.

The rose has a woody stem that grows, year after year, in rings, like a tree. Some people call it a rose-tree. But it is only a shrub or bush, the promise of a tree. The wild rose is often only a clump of separate, thorny canes. On them you can find the tiny leaf and flower buds in winter. And in the spring you can peel the thin, satiny bark away, and find the green layer of the new growth under it.

In March, when the buds begin to swell, put some branches of the wild rose in water, in a sunny window, and watch the leaves unfold. They are compound leaves of five, seven or even nine oval, saw-notched leaflets. Where a rose leaf joins a stem, two ears or wings are set, giving it a broader, firmer hold. The under side of the leaf is furry, or even a little prickly along the mid-rib, and there are sharp thorns on trunk and branches.