Rosa chinensis Jacq.
Synonyms: R. sinica L. ex Murr. (1774), form with an abnormal calyx; R. indica sens. Ait. f. and many other authors, not L.; R. semperflorens Curt.; R. diversifolia Vent., nom. illegt.; R. bengalensis Pers., nom. illegit.; R. longifolia Willd.
A shrub of variable habit, of moderate size or dwarf in its cultivated state, semi-scandent or tall and laxly branched in its putative wild states; branches armed with scattered, hooked and somewhat flattened prickles. Leaflets three or five, ovate to lanceolate, acuminate, 1 to 21⁄4 in. long, sometimes tinged with purple when young, serrated, glabrous and glossy above, underside glabrous except for the sometimes downy midrib. Petiole and rachis prickly and somewhat glandular-bristly. Stipules narrow, persistent. Flowers single or semi-double, varying in colour from light pink to crimson or crimson scarlet, solitary or in corymbs; pedicels variable in length, smooth or glandular, with a pair of narrow bracts at the base. Receptacle ellipsoid to globular, smooth or glandular; sepals with a few lateral appendages, reflexed at flowering-time and soon deciduous, glandular or smooth on the back. Disk thickened, more or less conical. Styles somewhat exserted, distinct, glabrous.
R. chinensis is essentially a race of garden roses. The type of the species, and all the forms that later found their way to Europe, are the result of more than a thousand years of mutation, intercrossing, and selection in the gardens of China. From the wild roses that are believed to have given rise to them they differ in their more modest, even dwarf, habit; and in their capacity, apparently not shared by their wild ancestors, of producing successive crops of flowers on the same stem – whence the Chinese name, which means Monthly Roses.
There can be no doubt that the China roses were bred from spontaneous forms that grow wild in the mountains of China, The first of these to become known to science was found by Augustine Henry in 1884 in the glens of Ichang, Hupeh (Gard. Chron., Vol. 31 (1902), p. 438). This rose agrees in most of its essential characters with typical R. chinensis, but differs in its much more robust, scrambling habit and in the shorter, stouter pedicels. The flowers, according to Henry, vary from crimson to pink. They are solitary, and are borne on short laterals from the previous season’s wood, as in R. gigantea. Henry’s rose, and similar ones found by Wilson, were given botanical status by Rehder and Wilson as R. chinensis f. spontanea. A similar rose, but with dark crimson flowers, was collected by Dr Rock in Kansu.
Of still greater interest are the roses of the section Chinenses found by Forrest in Yunnan, which seems to be the centre of variation of this group. Here R. gigantea occurs in its typical state, and also in forms with pale pink or pale yellow flowers. But other Forrest collections, from the north-western part of the province, are clearly referable to R. chinensis in a broad sense, differing from R. gigantea in such characters as the darker red flowers, glandular pedicels, appendaged sepals, and gland-edged stipules. A form of R. chinensis growing wild in thickets on the Salween-Kiuchiang divide has a compound inflorescence as in a Pink China, but grows 8 to 10 ft high and has flowers of a deep crimson-rose (F.21631). Other specimens are nearer to R. gigantea, while still showing some characters of R. chinensis. Forrest also found Crimson Chinas, near to the type of R. chinensis, but with one exception, annotated as ‘semi-cultivated’, all the specimens seen came from gardens. His F.24059, of which he also sent seeds, had dark crimson flowers; it was cultivated at the base of the Shweli-Salween divide and may well have derived from wild plants. It is evident from Forrest’s collections – an important and neglected contribution to rhodology – that R. chinensis as well as R. gigantea is a native of Yunnan, and that both are cultivated in the province, together with various hybrids or intermediates between them. There is a strong probability that the China roses developed there, later finding their way to the gardens and nurseries of Canton, and thence to Europe. The cultivars of Camellia reticulata certainly had such a history.
The westward spread of the China roses must have begun at a comparatively early date, for they seem to have been common in the gardens of India when the sub-continent started to be botanised towards the end of the 18th century. But it is doubtful if the China roses were ever quite so much at home in Bengal as the French rosarian Boitard suggested in his Manuel Complet (1836): ‘Le féroce tigre du Bengale, le hideux crocodile du Gange, se cachent quelquefois, pour attendre leur proie, dans les touffes épaisses du Rosier Toujours Fleuri.’ By the time British forces seized Mauritius from the French in 1810 several sorts of China roses were established in the gardens there, and were probably introduced in the time of Pierre Poivre, who established a famous collection of Far Eastern plants on the island between 1767 and 1773.
The date of the first arrival of a China rose in Europe is not known. The type of R. chinensis is a specimen from the herbarium of the Dutch physician Gronovius of Leyden, dated 1733. This may have been brought from China in the dried state; or it may have been taken from a plant in the collection gathered together at Leyden by Boerhaave, which, according to Linnaeus, consisted of some seventy species ‘brought from all over the world’ (Hort. Cliff. (1734), p. 191). Since the Boerhaave catalogue of 1720 lists only some twenty familiar sorts of roses the main acquisitions must have been after that date. The first recorded introduction of a Pink China was certainly to Holland, in about 1781. The introductions to Britain from 1789 onwards are described below.
cv. ‘Pallida’. Pink or Blush China. – A shrub to about 3 ft high, taller on a wall. It agrees with typical R. chinensis in its glandular-bristly pedicels and pinnated sepals, but the stems and prickles are stouter and the flowers, semi-double and fragrant, are blush-pink and borne in clusters (R. semperflorens var. pallida Roessig in Oek.-Bot. Beschr. Rosen (1803); R. semperflorens var. carnea Roessig, Die Rosen, t. 19 (1802-20); R. indica sens. Andr., Roses, Vol. II, t. 66 (1805); R. indica var. vulgaris Thory in Redouté, Les Roses, Vol. I, p. 51, t. (1817)).
According to the younger Aiton, the Pink China was introduced to Britain by Sir Joseph Banks in 1789, but the first that is known to have entered commerce was seen growing in the garden of a Mr Parsons at Rickmansworth in 1793, and was propagated by the nurseryman Colvill. This ‘Parsons’ Pink’ is the form portrayed by Andrews and later by Redouté. Roessig tells us nothing about the provenance of his R. semperflorens pallida (carnea), but his description tallies with that provided by Thory in Redouté.
Andrews called the Pink China ‘one of the greatest ornaments ever introduced to this country’. No such praise was ever bestowed on ‘Semperflorens’, the Crimson China, which soon died out in Europe in its original form, while a Pink China, probably ‘Parsons’ Pink’, is still grown in gardens; see ‘Old Blush China’, p. 193.
Through two lines of descent the Pink China is an ancestor of most modern garden roses. Crossed in South Carolina with R. moschata, it gave rise to ‘Champney’s Pink Cluster’, parent of the Old Blush Noisette (R. × noisettiana Thory), from which all the Noisettes and Tea roses descend. The second of its ancestral hybrids also arose outside Europe, on the Ile de Bourbon (Réunion), where sometime early in the 19th century it became hybridised with an Autumn Damask, giving rise to the race of Bourbon roses, from which, through the Hybrid Perpetuals, most modern garden roses descend (see further on p. 164). It cannot be certain whether in either case it was ‘Parsons’ Pink’ that was involved, as is usually assumed. A Pink China could have reached America at the same time as R. laevigata, by direct import from the Far East, while Réunion is likely to have had the same garden flora as Mauritius, which certainly did not owe its China roses to import from Britain (see above).
cv. ‘Persicifolia’ (‘Salicifolia’). – A curiosity merely, with abnormally narrow leaflets, figured in Redouté, Les Roses (Vol. II, p. 27, t.), as R. indica var. longifolia (Willd.) Thory. It is extremely improbable that this is really the R. longifolia of Willdenow, described from specimens of garden forms of R. chinensis received from India, which, judging from his description, and from Crépin’s comments on the specimens in Willdenow’s herbarium, seem to have had large leaves with rather long, lanceolate leaflets, in no way abnormal. The name R. chinensis var. longifolia (Willd.) Rehd. is based on the rose portrayed by Redouté.
cv. ‘Semperflorens’. Slater’s Crimson China. – A small bush with slender branches, armed with scattered, slightly flattened prickles, obviously very near to typical R. chinensis, the flowers being semi-double, or paired and borne on long, slender glandular-bristly pedicels as described by Jacquin from the Gronovius specimen, deep crimson scarlet. Sepals pinnated, glandular on the back (R. semperflorens Curt., in Bot. Mag., t. 284 (1794); R. indica var. semperflorens (Curt.) Ser.; R. chinensis var. semperflorens (Curt.) Koehne).
The rose figured in the Botanical Magazine as R. semperflorens was introduced from China by Gilbert Slater of Knots Green, near Leytonstone, Herts, about 1791. Like other original importations from China, Slater’s Crimson was soon displaced by hybrids, but a rose agreeing well with it was found in Bermuda in 1953 and introduced to the John Innes Horticultural Institution in 1957 (G. R. Rowley, Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 84 (1959), pp. 270-3, reprinted with additional illustrations in The Rose Annual (1960), pp. 31-4). Also in cultivation is ‘Miss Willmott’s Crimson China’ (The Genus Rosa, Vol. I, p. 89, t.) and the differences between these two is given by Mr Rowley in his article. The rose referred to in garden literature as the Old Crimson China is, however, likely to be ‘Cramoisi Supérieur’, which is of later European origin.
A .single-flowered Crimson China, cultivated by the French nurseryman Cels, is figured in Ventenat’s Hortus Celsianus, t. 35 (1800-2) under the name R. diversifolia, and in Redouté’s Les Roses (Vol. I, p. 49, t.) as R. indica simply. It was imported to this country by Lee and Kennedy and first flowered in their nursery in 1804 (J. Smith, Exotic Botany, Vol. II (1805), p. 91). At the present time there is a single-flowered Crimson China in cultivation as ‘Miss Lowe’ and another with darker flowers, the original name for which is uncertain.
Dr Hurst advanced the theory that Slater’s Crimson was a parent of the original Portland rose (‘Portlandica’, see p. 196) and through it of the ‘Rose du Roi’, first of the Hybrid Perpetuals. This is impossible, since ‘Portlandica’ was in commerce well before 1791, and there is really nothing in its characters, except the vividness of its red flowers and its dwarf habit, that might suggest the influence of a Crimson China. But Slater’s Crimson nevertheless probably played its part in the formation of the old Hybrid China and Portland groups, from which the modern Hybrid Teas partly descend. It is certainly a parent of the old bedding roses ‘Cramoisi Supérieur’ and ‘Fabvier’.
cv. ‘Viridiflora’. – A monstrous form, apparently derived from a Pink China, in which the petals are more or less green and the sexual parts are converted into narrow, toothed, leafy segments. This cultivar-name comes from R. viridiflora, given by A. Lavallée in 1856 to a rose grown by the French nurseryman Verdier, who had acquired it from America (Hortic. Franc. (1856), p. 218 and t. 19). What appears to have been the same clone had been exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1855 by Miellez, another French grower, and this too came from America, but via England (Fl. des Serres, p. 129 and t. 1136). The history of what is probably the American green rose in question is given in Gard. Chron., Vol. 3 (1875), p. 20, by the nurseryman Robert Buist of the Rosedale Nurseries, Philadelphia, a Scotsman trained at Edinburgh who had emigrated to the USA in 1828. The green rose, according to him, had been ‘caught’ at Charleston, South Carolina, about 1833. What became of the plants he sent to his friend Thomas Rivers in 1837 is apparently not recorded, but the American green rose is known to have been imported into England from Baltimore in 1853.
Another green rose was introduced to Kew around 1852 by Sir H. Barkly, the Governor of British Guiana, but this seems to have been a sport of some Bourbon rose.
The green rose distributed in this country by Paul’s nursery came from Miellez (see above).
cv. ‘Minima’. Miss Lawrance’s Rose. – A miniature; flowers single, usually solitary, with flesh-coloured, acuminately tipped petals (R. indica var. minima Sims in Bot. Mag., t. 1762, an inaccurate portrait showing bristles on the stems; R. lawranciana Sw.; R. laurentiae Andr., Roses, Vol. II, t. 75; ?R. indica var. acuminata Thory in Redouté, Les Roses, Vol. I, p. 53, t., almost certainly ‘Minima’, but Thory was misled by the inaccurate portrait of this into supposing that the two were different).
According to Sweet, this rose was introduced from Mauritius (Ile de France) in 1810, which, if true, means that it must have been brought home by a member of the invading force that captured Mauritius from the French in that year. The R. pusilla (i.e., dwarf rose) of the Mauritius Catalogue (1822), may be this rose. It was listed without description as a rose common in gardens on the island, and is perhaps the same as the R. chinensis of the 1816 catalogue, for which the vernacular name was ‘Petit Rosier de l’Inde’. Sweet named the introduced rose in honour of Mary Lawrance, the botanical artist whose famous collection of rose portraits was published 1796-9.
Miss Lawrance’s rose was the parent of a group of miniatures called Fairy Roses, of which Rivers had some sixteen varieties by 1837. These and other miniature derivatives of R. chinensis were sometimes known collectively in gardens as R. lawranceana or R. laurentiae. See also ‘Rouletii’.
cv. ‘Pumila’. Bengale Pompone. – A miniature rose less than 1 ft high, with leaves, including petiole, 11⁄2 in. long and mostly solitary, double, flesh-coloured flowers; petals acuminate at the apex, as in ‘Minima’ (R. indica var. pumila Thory in Redouté, Les Roses, Vol. I, p. 115, t.; R. indica var. humilis Ser.; ?R. indica var. minor Andrews, Roses, Vol. II, t. 68).
This rose was raised around 1806 at Colvill’s nursery, Chelsea, and exported to France, where it soon became known as the ‘Bengale Pompone’. According to Thory, it could be easily raised from cuttings, which flowered within three months of rooting when two or three inches high.
cv. ‘Rouletii’. – An evergreen or semi-deciduous shrub from 4 to 9 in. high, of compact, bushy shape; young shoots glabrous, armed irregularly with spines 1⁄16 to 1⁄12 in. long. Leaflets oval-lanceolate, slenderly pointed, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. long, about half as wide, purplish, glabrous, the main-stalk furnished with a few spines and glands. Flowers 3⁄4 to 1 in. wide, very double, rosy pink, produced in erect clusters.
This pretty rose was first brought into notice by Henri Correvon of Geneva in 1922. He stated that a friend of his, Dr Roulet, after whom he named it, found it a few years previous to that date grown in pots as a window plant at Mauborget, near Grandson, in Switzerland. This village was afterwards completely destroyed by fire and the rose with it, but a single plant was subsequently found in a neighbouring village. From this all the plants now in cultivation have been raised (Gard. Chron., Vol. 72 (1922), p. 342; H. Correvon, Floraire (n.d.), p. 120 and t. XIV).
‘Rouletii’ is quite hardy in the open ground. Grown in pots, it seems to flower more or less continuously. In the Swiss villages its height as a window plant was apparently 2 in. or so, but it grows 6 to 9 in. high in the open ground with us.
Nothing is known of the origin of ‘Rouletii’. It is one of the pygmy forms of R. chinensis, and Boulenger suggested that it was the original ‘Pumila’ (Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux., Vol. 14, pp. 367-71). Graham Thomas has noted that in fact it reverts to ‘Pumila’, of which it must therefore be a mutation, rather than the original form.
‘Rouletii’ is the parent of a new race of miniature roses, mostly bred in Holland, of which the best known are ‘Oakington Ruby’ and ‘Tom Thumb’ (‘Peon’).
R. × odorata (Andr.) Sw. R. indica odorata Andr., Roses, Vol. II, t. 77 (1810); R. indica fragrans Thory in Redouté, Les Roses, Vol. I, p. 61, t. (1817); R. indica var. odoratissima Lindl.; R. fragrans (Thory) Thory – The type of this group – ‘Odorata’ or ‘Hume’s Blush Tea-scented China’ – was introduced from China a few years before 1810 by Sir Abraham Hume of Wormley Bury, Herts. Although perhaps no longer in cultivation, it is known from contemporary illustrations and herbarium specimens to have been near to R. gigantea in its essential characters – indeed, Rehder and Wilson considered them to be conspecific, and placed R. gigantea under R. odorata as a variety. This was, to say the least of it, a questionable decision, for ‘Hume’s Blush’ clearly showed some characters of R. chinensis, notably the clustered flowers on glandular pedicels. Dr Hurst considered it to be a garden hybrid between R. chinensis and R. gigantea, which is likely, though there is always the possibility that it derived from some wild intermediate or hybrid between these two species.
‘Hume’s Blush’ was tender and has probably disappeared from cultivation in Europe, leaving a large inheritance. Most modern Hybrid Teas have Hume’s rose in their ancestry, through the old Pink Teas and Hybrid Chinas. Whose nose it was that first detected the fragrance of China tea in its flowers may never be known, but evidently a French one, for the epithet ‘tea-scented’ started in France.
cv. ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’ (‘Beauty of Glazenwood’, ‘Gold of Ophir’). – A tender climber, obviously very near to R. gigantea, as indeed Crépin pointed out when describing that species. Flowers semi-double, gamboge-yellow flushed with coppery red, borne singly or in small clusters at midsummer. Bot. Mag., t. 4679. It was introduced in 1845 by Robert Fortune, who found it growing in the garden of a rich Mandarin at Ningpo. See further in: Graham Thomas, Climbing Roses, p. 105.
A rose similar to ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’ is widespread in the valleys of Yunnan, but according to Forrest it is always found near cultivation and is probably an escape from gardens. It is a climber to about 20 ft, with semi-double fragrant flowers, rose-coloured flushed with copper. It is near to R. gigantea, but with broader stipules and longer pedicels (F.21131 and F.21149).
‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’ is included by Rehder in R. chinensis var. pseudindica (Lindl.) Rehd. This variety is founded on R. pseudindica Lindl., described from a Chinese painting in the library of A. B. Lambert (Lindley, Monograph (1820), p. 132). The plant portrayed had double, deep yellow flowers, but the botanical details shown in the portrait must have been fanciful, since the characters taken from it by Lindley do not accord with the section Chinenses or any other Chinese species.
cv. ‘Mutabilis’. – Young growths slender, wiry, with few prickles. Leaves small, purplish when young. Flowers single, fragrant; buds slender, pointed, flame-coloured, opening chamois-yellow, becoming after pollination coppery pink deepening to coppery carmine. It is sometimes harmed by severe weather, but will make growths 3 to 4 ft long if cut to the ground; in some sheltered gardens it makes a sheaf of branches 7 or 8 ft high; against a wall it will spread indefinitely. It is constantly in flower from late spring until autumn and makes a spectacular, bizarre display (R. mutabilis Correvon; R. chinensis f. mutabilis (Correvon) Rehd.). A.M. 1957.
The origin of this rose is uncertain. Correvon, who described it in Revue Horticole, 1934 (p. 60, with plate), had received it some forty years earlier from Prince Borromeo, in whose garden on the Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore, it had made a hedge some 7 ft high. It was distributed by Rovelli’s nursery, Pallanza, on the same lake, and plants from that firm had reached Britain by 1916. It was apparently known horticulturally as “die Türkische Rose” or “R. bicolor”, probably from confusion with R. foetida ‘Bicolor’, for which ‘die Türkische Rose’ is an old German name. This confusion in turn probably explains the name “R. turkestanica” once used for it.
Following the publication of Correvon’s article, a correspondent wrote to the Revue Horticole from Madagascar, stating that a rose agreeing with ‘Mutabilis’ was grown in that country, to which it had been brought by French colonists from the island of Réunion. This, if correct, suggests a Chinese origin, since some China roses were in cultivation there and on Mauritius by the middle of the 18th century.
Rehder places this rose under R. chinensis, but it seems to be more at home under R. × odorata, showing as it does some characters of R. gigantea.
cv. ‘Ochroleuca’. Parks’ Yellow China. – This rose, extinct in Europe, was brought from China in May 1824 by the Horticultural Society’s collector A. D. Parks, and was described by Lindley in 1826 as R. indica var. ochroleuca. Crossed with an original Blush Noisette (R. moschata × Pink China) it is a parent of the old yellow Tea roses and yellow Noisettes, which, through it, derive their colouring from the yellow-flowered Yunnan form of R. gigantea.
cv. ‘Sulphurea’. – A seedling of ‘Odorata’ (‘Hume’s Blush’), figured by Andrews in Roses, t. 86 (1826); raised by Knight, the Chelsea nurseryman, it had pale yellow, semi-double flowers. Andrews called this rose R. indica sulphurea, and it is probable that the rose portrayed in the third edition of Redouté, Les Roses (1828-30), under the same name is the Knight seedling and not ‘Parks’ Yellow’, as usually supposed.
This is the earliest name for the species (1768). The R. indica of Linnaeus (1753) is a confused entity, and the only part of it that can be identified is R. cymosa (q.v., p. 55). The name R. indica was, however, widely used at one time for the species here described. In the narrow sense it was applied to the Pink or Blush China roses, and the Crimson Chinas were treated as a variety – var. semperflorens (Curt.) Ser. or even as a distinct species – R. semperflorens Curt. When the misused name R. indica was dropped in favour of R. chinensis no account was taken of the fact that the two names are differently typified. The type of R. chinensis was a Crimson China similar to the one named R. semperflorens, which should therefore have been treated as the typical variety, R. chinensis var. chinensis, but continued to be distinguished as R. chinensis var. semperflorens. The Pink China, which is the type of R. indica sens. Ait. f., Lindl. et al., when transferred to R. chinensis, should have been given the varietal position as var. pallida, from R. semperflorens var. pallida Roessig. But botanically the difference between the Crimson and Pink Chinas is not great. The description given here comprises both, and the various old introductions are distinguished as cultivars.