Tuesday, 27 May 2014


“The rose and the thorn, and sorrow and gladness are linked together.” – Saadi Shirazi

A rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the botanical family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. They form a group of plants that can be erect shrubs, climbing or trailing with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers vary in size and shape and are usually large and showy, in various colours. Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwest Africa. Species, cultivars and hybrids are all widely grown for their beauty and often are fragrant. Rose plants range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach 7 meters in height. Different species hybridise easily, and this has been used in the development of the wide range of garden roses.

The name rose comes from French, itself from Latin rosa, which was perhaps borrowed from Oscan, from Greek ρόδον rhódon (Aeolic βρόδον wródon), itself borrowed from Old Persian wrd- (wurdi), related to Avestan varəδa, Sogdian ward, Parthian wâr. Rose, Rosa, Triantafyllia (Greek), Warda and Ouarda (Middle Eastern) are popular women’s names that reflect the flower's beauty.

No other flower perhaps is so universally known and admired as the rose, frequently referred to as the “queen of the flowers”. Its blossoms that range in colour from white through various tones of yellow and pink to dark crimson and maroon are widely encountered in art. Many varieties have been bred with beautiful blends of colour. The elusive blue rose has been impossible to breed because of the chemistry of the rose petal, although genetic engineering may make this possible in the near future. The size of rose flowers ranges from tiny miniatures 1.25 cm in diameter to flowers measuring more than 17.5 cm across. Roses can have a delightful fragrance, which varies according to the variety and to climatic and soil conditions.

There are several major classes of garden roses. The best-known and most popular class of rose is the hybrid tea roses, which account for the majority of roses grown in greenhouses and gardens and sold in florist shops. Hybrid teas come in the complete range of rose colours and have large, symmetrical blossoms. Hybrid teas resulted from the crossbreeding of frequently blooming but fragile tea roses with vigorous hybrid perpetual roses. The hybrid perpetuals achieved great popularity until they were supplanted by the hybrid teas in the early 20th century.

Polyantha roses are a class of very hardy roses that produce dense bunches of tiny blossoms. Floribunda roses are hardy hybrids that resulted from crossing hybrid teas with polyanthas. Grandiflora roses are relatively new hybrids resulting from the crossbreeding of hybrid teas and floribunda roses. Grandifloras produce full-blossomed flowers growing on tall, hardy bushes. Among the other classes of modern roses are climbing roses, whose slender stems can be trained to ascend trellises; shrub roses, which develop into large bushes; and miniature roses, which are pygmy-sized plants bearing tiny blossoms. Altogether there are approximately 13,000 identifiable varieties of roses in these and other classes.

Roses have been long used as symbols in a number of societies. Roses are ancient symbols of love and beauty. The rose was sacred to a number of goddesses including Isis, whose rose appears in Apuleius’ late classical allegorical novel “The Golden Ass” as ‘the sweet Rose of reason and virtue’ that saves the hero from his bewitched life in the form of a donkey. The ancient Greeks and Romans identified the rose with the goddess of love, Aphrodite (Greek name) and Venus (Roman name).

In Rome a wild rose would be placed on the door of a room where secret or confidential matters were discussed. The phrase sub rosa, or “under the rose”, means to keep a secret — derived from this ancient Roman practice. The decorative ceiling rose of Victorian architecture derives from this. The rose of course was the special flower of Harpocrates. In late Greek mythology as developed in Ptolemaic Alexandria, Harpocrates (Ancient Greek: Ἁρποκράτης) is the god of silence. Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus. To the ancient Egyptians, Horus represented the newborn Sun, rising each day at dawn.

Medieval Christians identified the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Christ. Roses also later came to be associated with the Virgin Mary. The red rose was eventually adopted as a symbol of the blood of the Christian martyrs. A bouquet of red roses, often used to show love, is used as a Valentine’s Day gift in many countries. Roses are occasionally the basis of design for rose windows in cathedrals, comprising five or ten segments (the five petals and five sepals of a rose) or multiples thereof, though most Gothic rose windows are much more elaborate.

The rose is the national flower of England. The usage dates from the reign of Henry VII who introduced the Tudor rose, combining a red rose, representing the House of Lancaster, and a white rose, representing the House of York, as a symbol of unity after the English civil wars of the 15th century which, long after, came to be called the Wars of the Roses. The rose thus appears in the histories of William Shakespeare and in the Child Ballads. It has been the symbol of England Rugby, and of the Rugby Football Union, since 1871.

In 1986 the rose was named the floral emblem of the United States, and the wild rose is the provincial flower of Alberta in Canada. The rose is also the state flower of four US states: Iowa and North Dakota (R. arkansana), Georgia (R. laevigata), and New York (Rosa generally). Portland, Oregon counts “City of Roses” among its nicknames, and holds an annual Rose Festival, as does Pasadena, California, holding the Tournament of Roses Parade since 1890 in conjunction with the Rose Bowl since 1902.

A red rose (often held in a hand) is a symbol of socialism or social democracy: It is used as a symbol by British, Irish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Brazilian, Dutch, Bulgarian, Korean, and other European labour, socialist or social democratic parties, mostly adopted in the period after World War II.


  1. How interesting! Love the bit about Harpocrates and the rose of silence!