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Rosa banksiae lutea

by Frank Treadway, Consulting Rosarian

We all are familiar with the sharp objects along a rose stem, commonly called "thorns", technically they are prickles — outgrowths of the epidermis (the outer layer of tissue of the stem). True thorns produced by plants such as Citrus or Pyracantha, are modified stems, which always originate at a node and which have nodes and internodes along the length of the thorn itself. On some of my Citrus these are wickedly long rigid and extremely sharp.

Mlle Cecile Brunner Rose prickles are typically sickle-shaped hooks, which aid the rose in hanging onto other vegetation when growing over it. Some species such as Rosa rugosa and Rosa pimpinellifolia have densely packed straight prickles, probably an adaptation to reduce browsing by animals, but also possibly an adaptation to trap wind-blown sand and so reduce erosion and protect their roots (both of these species grow naturally on coastal sand dunes). Despite the presence of prickles, roses are frequently browsed by deer. In my garden deer ignore thorns, prickles, and all but the fence surrounding the rose “ice cream” they covet. They will eat most anything!

A few species of roses have only vestigial prickles that have no points. Some roses are known as “thornless” or have very few prickles and are good for locations where children play or along paths where people may be scratched as they pass.

When we prune, we must protect our hands and arms with gloves that help prevent a puncture wound or nasty scratch. Some prickles can embed the skin and become infected giving pain for several days until the tiny sharp point is removed. Most often washing the area will be enough treatment. There is a disease called “Rose Thorn or Rose gardener's disease” and is caused by the infection of the fungus Sporothrix schenckii. This fungal disease usually affects the skin but can be more complicated and need medical attention. So we are very cautious and wear protective glasses, gauntlet gloves, and thick clothing when we venture into our work in rose beds. Long reach tools can be used to cut and hold a stem when we cannot easily go into a crowded or dense rose bed. This prompts us to consider how close together we plant roses and to give room for them to grow into their natural shape and size with the thought that we will need to have access to them for years to come.

Here are a few examples of roses with a variety of prickles or few at all. The type of prickle or absence of them can help identify the rose.

Damask roses have stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles. They are noted for their intense heavy fragrance. Some are repeat bloomers and grow 3 to 6 feet in size.

'Mlle Cécile Brünner' is a moderately scented Polyantha shrub short in size but vigorous, with very few prickles.

Rosa rugosa, a Species rose, grows in thickets with stems densely covered in numerous short, straight prickles.

Rosa moschata, another Species rose, has prickles on the stems that are straight or slightly curved and have a broad base.

Rosa canina, Species rose, is the only dog rose without prickles. It is light pink and single.

Rosa 'Eden' has dense, dark green foliage with large, semi-glossy leaves, and almost no prickles.

R. rugosa Rosa 'Perle d'Or', Polyantha, has glossy medium to dark green foliage, and very few scattered, large prickles.

Rosa banksiae is a vigorously growing Species rose that can reach to 20 feet tall. Unlike most roses it is practically thornless, though it may bear some prickles up to 5 mm long, particularly on stout, strong older canes. The old garden rose, 'Blush Noisette', is a rather dense shrub with long arching shoots with a reddish color, very few prickles, and many soft, glossy leaves.

Rosa 'Charles Austin' - This Shrub cultivar has large leaves and fine, red prickles.

Thornless Roses:
Bleu Magenta (Hybrid Multiflora, mauve)
Chloris (Alba, light pink, very fragrant)
Goldfinch (Hybrid Multiflora, light yellow/white, fragrant)
Hippolyte (Gallica, mauve/red blend)
Kathleen Harrop (Bourbon, light pink, fragrant)
Lady Banks Rose (Species, white or yellow)
Lykkefund (Large-flowered Climber, white/light yellow)
Mme. Legras de St. Germain (Alba, white, fragrant)
Mme. Plantier (Alba, white, fragrant)
Tausendschön (Hybrid Multiflora, pink blend)
Veilchenblau (Hybrid Multiflora, mauve, fragrant)
Zéphirine Drouhin (Bourbon, medium pink, fragrant)

Veilchenblau Near-Thornless Roses:
A Shropshire Lad (Shrub, David Austin, yellow blend)
Aimée Vibert (Noisette, white, fragrant)
Bride's Dream (Hybrid Tea, light pink)
Cardinal de Richelieu (Gallica, mauve, fragrant)
China Doll (Polyantha, medium pink/light pink)
Climbing Iceberg (Climbing Floribunda, white)
Climbing Pinkie (Climbing Polyantha, medium pink)
Clotilde Soupert (Polyantha, white)
Complicata (Gallica, pink blend, single)
Cornelia (Hybrid Musk, pink blend/yellow blend, fragrant)
Crépuscule (Noisette, apricot blend)
Crown Princess Margareta (Shrub, David Austin, apricot blend)
Frau Karl Druschki (Hybrid Perpetual, white)
Geoff Hamilton (Shrub, David Austin, medium pink)
Ghislaine de Féligonde (Hybrid Multiflora, light yellow/yellow blend, fragrant)
Golden Showers (Large-flowered Climber, medium yellow)
Heritage (Shrub, David Austin, light pink, very fragrant)
J.P. Connell (Shrub, medium yellow/light yellow)
James Galway (Shrub, David Austin, light pink/medium pink)
John Clare (Shrub, David Austin, deep pink/light red, fragrant)
La Marne (Polyantha, pink blend)
Lady Hillingdon (Tea, yellow blend, fragrant)
Leander (Shrub, apricot blend)
Mlle. Cécile Brunner (Polyantha, light pink)
Mme. Alfred Carriére (Noisette, white, fragrant)
Mortimer Sackler (Shrub, David Austin, light pink)
Oceana (Hybrid Tea, apricot blend)
Outta the Blue (Shrub, mauve)
Paul Neyron (Hybrid Perpetual, medium pink)
Pure Perfume (Shrub, white)
Reine des Violettes (Hybrid Perpetual, mauve, fragrant)
Rose-Marie Viaud (Hybrid Multiflora, mauve) The Generous Gardener (Shrub, David Austin, light pink)
Thérèse Bugnet (Hybrid Rugosa, medium pink, fragrant)
Tuscany Superb (Gallica, mauve, fragrant)

Remember the old English expression “Bed of roses” refers to an easy and peaceful life. Most likely this is based on a rose representing happiness and love, beauty and the fragrance of life. Do not let this glorious experience escape you when you surround yourself with all kinds of roses, those with and without prickles. Put the right rose in the right place and enjoy you creative senses in the rose garden!

References: The abundant Internet and Wikipedia









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