One definition of a species is a plant the currently lives in the "wild" or one where there is some evidence that it once lived there in the past (fossils, herbarium specimens, etc.). So, a species rose is one that humans have not manipulated through cross breeding or selection.

Although there is some debate over it, there seem to be about 150 different species in the genus, Rosa. Complicating the issue is that roses may naturally cross pollinate resulting in natural hybrids or, in some cases, new species.

Only a small number of species roses are grown in the home landscape. Most of them have a single season of bloom, often in early summer with no re-blooming or a small number of blooms again in the fall. They are generally small, five petaled, single flowers.

Unlike hybrid teas and other types of roses, the species rose is not grafted. It grows on its own root stock and its hardiness depends on the plant itself. Usually, winter protection is not needed if the plant is rated for your USDA Hardiness Zone.

Here are a few examples of rose "species" that exist today and may be incorporated into a home landscape:

  • Rosa foetida - Generally considered a "spindly" bush, these roses are not especially hardy or vigorous. They are also very susceptible to black spot disease. Plants of this species grow to about 5 or 6 feet in height with a spread of 4 feet. The flowers have a heavy, unusual fragrance, hence the specific epithet of foetida.

  • Rosa x hansonii (Hanson's Yellow) - Developed in New York in the early 1800s, this species has been naturalized in many parts of North America. It is a vigorous grower whose 5 foot tall canes are covered with bright yellow flowers that are very fragrant.

  • Rosa hugonis (Father Hugo Rose) - This shrub rose was found in China in 1899 by Father Hugo Scallon. Growing to 6 or 8 feet in height, they bear light yellow flower that have a "yeasty" fragrance.

  • Rosa laevigata (Cherokee Rose) - This climber bears fragrant, creamy white flowers that are about 3 inches in diameter. The key downside of this species is that it is not very cold hardy.

  • Rosa moyesii - This is a very large plant, growing up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Its blood red flowers have little fragrance and are about 3 inches in diameter.

  • Rosa eglanteria - (Sweet Briar Rose) - This vigorous rose is noted mostly for its scented foliage which may be detected from a distance. It quickly becomes a mass of thickly intertwined canes.

  • Rosa rubrifolia - Although it only bears small, pink flowers in the early summer, this species is noted for its reddish bark and grey-green shiny foliage.

  • Rosa rugosa - These plants are noted as being very hardy and they grow to a height of between 3 and 6 feet. Its carmine colored flowers are fragrant. The rugose i.e. crinkled leaves are shiny dark green. A very adaptable rose, rugosas are grown in a wide variety of environments and will thrive at the edge of the ocean where they may be bathed in salt water spray.

  • Rosa spinosissima (Scotch or Burnet Rose) - Growing to only 3 feet in height, these roses spread rapidly by suckers making them a good ground cover. Their fragrant, 1.5 inch wide flowers result in nearly black colored hips in the fall.

  • Rosa virginiana - A native North American plant, this rose grows to about 6 feet in height by 5 feet in width. The arching canes bear single, pink flowers in mid-summer. It spreads by suckers.

  • Rosa wichuraiana (Memorial Rose) - From Asia, this species is often grown as a ground cover on slopes. The low growing stems will often take root when they come into contact with the soil. White, slightly fragrant flowers form in clusters in late summer.


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