The taxonomy of the dogroses (Rosa sect. Caninae) is notoriously problematic and all the members of the section are characterized by a form of unbalanced meiosis (so-called "canina meiosis"). We used a novel combination of random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers and elliptic Fourier analysis of leaflet shape to investigate relationships within and between the seven common dogrose tara in the Nordic countries. A between-individual genetic distance matrix calculated on the basis of the presence/absence of RAPD hands was used in a non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis. Population data from elliptic Fourier analysis of leaflet shape were analyzed with canonical variates analysis. Elliptic Fourier analysis of leaflet shape provided a valuable complement to traditional, often subjectively-assessed, morphological characters and detected subtle patterns of within- and between-taxon differentiation that are generally consistent with the relationships recognized in the current taxonomic treatments of the section. In contrast, RAPDs emphasize the discontinuities between three groups of taxa and suggest that R. canina and the two subspecies of X. dumalis, as well as the taxon-pair A, sherardii and X. villosa subsp. mollis, are more closely related than can be concluded on the basis of morphological characters.