view current print edition




The rose rundown —some fun facts

• Roses are considered the “queen of blooms” and are quite possibly the world’s most popular cut flower.

• Flowers in the Rosa genus belong to the Rosaceae family and include over 100 species and more than 20,000 cultivars. The Rosaceae plant family has a number of flowering and fruit-bearing members, including plums, apricots, peaches and apples.

• The thorns along rose stems are technically “prickles” that grow out of the outer layer of tissue on the stems. Prickles aid roses in hanging onto vegetation or other structures when growing and might also deter animals from eating the plant.

• The flowers of most rose species have five petals and each petal is divided into two distinct lobes.

• Rose hips are the fruit of the rose and they are small, reddish seedpods that look and taste similar to mini crabapples. Rose hips have historically been brewed for tea, made into marmalade, syrup, honey, wine, jam and jelly, and used in herbal medicine because of their significant levels of vitamins, especially vitamin C. Certain rose hip varieties have also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating digestive and urinary tract disorders and for controlling cancer growth.

• Perfumes have been made for centuries from rose oil by steam distilling crushed rose petals in order to extract volatile essential oils — a process that originated in ancient Persia. Another product, rose water, is used in cosmetics, cooking and medicine in various parts of the world.

• Roses have existed in nature for over 40 million years.

• The first cultivated roses appeared in Asian gardens more than 5,000 years ago.

• Roses were introduced to Europe during the Roman Empire, and Nero was said to have released roses from the ceiling during extravagant feasts and banquets.

• The sails of Cleopatra’s ships were soaked with rose water so that “the very winds were lovesick.”

• Roses were in such high demand during the 17th century that royalty considered roses or rose water as legal tender, and they were often used as barter and for payments.

• The first true primary red rose seen in Europe was Slater’s Crimson China, introduced in 1792 from China, where it had been growing wild in the mountains. Immediately, rose breeders began using it to hybridize red roses for cultivation.

• Until the early 19th century, dried rose petals were believed to have mysterious powers. Napoleon gave his officers bags of rose petals to boil in white wine to treat lead poisoning from bullet wounds.

• The world’s oldest living rose plant is thought to be a thousand years old. Today it continues to flourish on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.

• Roses are an ancient symbol of beauty and the Greeks and Romans identified the rose with Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love. Thousands of years later, roses are still considered the principal messenger of love and romance.

• The rose is the national flower of England and in 1986 it was also named the floral emblem of the United States.