Rosa laevigata Michx.
Synonyms: R. sinica Ait., not L.; R. ternata Poir.; R. nivea DC.; R. hystrix Lindl.
A climbing shrub, growing over the branches of trees in the wild state, its stems armed with hooked prickles, sometimes mixed with needles on the branchlets. Leaves trifoliolate, but sometimes with five leaflets on cultivated plants, brilliantly glossy green and quite glabrous. Leaflets shortly stalked, elliptic or ovate, simply toothed, 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, about half as wide, of thick, firm texture. Stipules free from the petiole for most of their length, the free part soon deciduous. Flowers 3 to 4 in. across, pure white, fragrant, solitary, borne on a very bristly stalk, the bristles extending to the receptacle and usually to the backs of the sepals, which are 1 in. or more long, with leafy tips. Fruits red, 3⁄4 in. wide, thickly set with bristles, the sepals persisting at the top for a long time. Bot. Mag., t. 2847.
Native of S. China and Formosa, extending into the former Indochina and probably Burma; cultivated outside its natural range from an early date and naturalised in the southern USA. It was in fact first described in 1803 from specimens collected in Georgia, where it had been in cultivation since about 1780. According to Aiton, Philip Miller had it in the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1759 but, if so, it must have been lost. It is not known to have flowered in Britain until about 1825.
One of the most beautiful of all single roses when seen at its best, it is, unfortunately, too tender for the open air except in the warmer counties. Else-where it can only succeed in exceptionally sheltered sunny corners.
For hybrids of R. laevigata see ‘Anemone’, in the second part, p. 171; ‘Marie Leonida’, mentioned under R. bracteata, the other parent; and R. × fortuniana, in alphabetical order.
cv. ‘Cooperi’. Cooper’s Burma Rose. – Although usually referred to as a form of R. gigantea, or as a possible hybrid between it and R. laevigata, this seems to belong wholly to the latter species. Some of its leaves have five leaflets instead of the normal three, but this is not infrequently the case in cultivated plants of R. laevigata. Although cut in severe winters, ‘Cooperi’ is probably hardier than the older form of R. laevigata and is said to flower more freely. A living plant has not been seen, but the flowers are said to acquire a pinkish tinge as they fade (R. cooperi Hort. ex A. T. Johnson, Gard. Chron., Vol. 131 (1952), p. 80 and R. E. Cooper in Nat. Rose Soc., Rose Annual 1953, p. 139; R. ‘Cooper Burmah’ Hort. ex E. A. Bunyard, New Fl. and Sylv., Vol. 10 (1938), p. 119; R. gigantea or R. odorata var. gigantea ‘Cooper’s Variety’ Hort.).
From information kindly provided by the Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and the Director of the National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, Eire, as well as from specimens preserved in the Kew Herbarium, it is possible to give what is probably the true history of this rose. It was introduced by Roland Cooper, who served 1921-7 as Superintendent of the Maymyo Botanic Garden in the Shan Hills of Burma and later became Curator of the Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh. He is known to have sent seeds of various Burmese plants to Lady Wheeler Cufle in Ireland and he must have done so for the first time soon after his arrival, for in October 1921 Lady Cuffe gave to Glasnevin seeds of an unnamed rose received from Mr Cooper at Maymyo. In the same year Kew had from Glasnevin what must have been a share of this sending, since the plant there, flowering by the early 1930s, was recorded as having come originally from Cooper via Glasnevin. It was R. laevigata. The plant in the National Rose Society’s Trial Grounds, of which Mr Courtney Page sent a specimen to Edinburgh in 1938 at Mr Cooper’s request, has recently been re-examined by Mr Andrew Grierson and is also R. laevigata. Where the NRS plant came from is unfortunately not recorded, but Mr Page’s recollection was that it had come from Kew as a small plant some seven years earlier, i.e., about 1931.
Where Roland Cooper collected the seeds is uncertain (he himself could not remember). But they were sent so soon after his arrival in Burma as to suggest that they were collected from a plant in the Maymyo Botanic Garden itself, and in view of the later confusion between Cooper’s rose and R. gigantea it is even possible that the rose grown there as R. gigantea, and mentioned by Cooper in the article cited above, was really R. laevigata. It is almost certainly Cooper’s rose that is mentioned by Boulenger, under R. laevigata, in Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux., Vol. 14 (1936), p. 197, footnote, and p. 199.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
cv. ‘Cooperi’. – Dr Nelson of the National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, Eire, informs us that the correspondence between Lady Cuffe and Sir Frederick Moore, the then Director, has now been found. It is indeed the case that the seeds received at Glasnevin in October 1921 came from a plant at Maymyo. But this had originally been collected by Lady Cuffe herself ‘at Kutkai on the limestone plateau of the North Shan States … about 4,300 ft up and near streams’.