Rosa pimpinellifolia L.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Rosa pimpinellifolia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2022-08-09.


Common Names

  • Burnet Rose


  • R. spinosissima L. (1771), not L. (1753)
  • R. scotica Mill.
  • R. spinosissima var. pimpinellifolia (L.) Hook. f.


Sharply pointed.
Made up or consisting of two or more similar parts (e.g. a compound leaf is a leaf with several leaflets).
With an unbroken margin.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
globularSpherical or globe-shaped.
A collection of preserved plant specimens; also the building in which such specimens are housed.
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
midveinCentral and principal vein in a leaf.
Enlarged end of a flower stalk that bears floral parts; (in some Podocarpaceae) fleshy structure bearing a seed formed by fusion of lowermost seed scales and peduncle.
(syn.) (botanical) An alternative or former name for a taxon usually considered to be invalid (often given in brackets). Synonyms arise when a taxon has been described more than once (the prior name usually being the one accepted as correct) or if an article of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature has been contravened requiring the publishing of a new name. Developments in taxonomic thought may be reflected in an increasing list of synonyms as generic or specific concepts change over time.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rosa pimpinellifolia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2022-08-09.

A dwarf bush with creeping roots, rarely more than 3 or 4 ft high in the typical state, with erect, short-branched stems covered with slender spines and stout bristles intermixed. Leaves closely set on the branches, 1 to 212 in. long, composed of five, seven or nine leaflets, which are round or oval or broadly obovate, 14 to 12 in. long, simply toothed, deep green, and except for the sometimes downy midrib quite glabrous. Flowers 112 to 2 in. across, white, creamy white or pale pink, solitary, borne in May. Pedicels and receptacle sometimes smooth, sometimes bristly or even prickly. Sepals usually entire and acute, woolly at the edge, smooth and glabrous on the back. Fruits dark brown, finally blackish, globose, 12 to 34 in. wide, crowned with the sepals.

A species widely spread in the Old World from Europe (very rare in Scandinavia) to Asia Minor, the Caucasus, W. Siberia and Central Asia. In Britain it is commonest near the sea, on fixed dunes, shingles and cliffs, often forming large colonies, but also occurs inland on limestone heaths and other dry open places. In gardens the species gives way as a rule to its numerous and variable progeny, some of which are very beautiful in their single or double flowers, either deep rose, white striped with rose, or pale creamy yellow. See further on p. 161. Yellow-flowered cultivars once placed under R. pimpinellifolia almost certainly owe their colouring to R. foetida (see R. × harisonii).

Note. The name R. spinosissima formerly often used for this species appears in the first edition of Linnaeus’ Species Plantarum (1753). The nomenclatural diagnosis is taken from his earlier work Flora Suecica (1745), p. 407, and refers to a rose common on field-margins and in field-hedges in the Swedish province of Uppland and known there as the butter-hip rose in allusion to its pulpous fruits. This rose is R. majalis (cinnamomea), which Linnaeus had seen earlier during his journey to Lapland (Fl. Lapponica (1737), p. 203). In all the works cited, Linnaeus wrongly identifies the rose of Uppland and Lapland with the R. campestris spinosissima flore albo odorata of Caspar Bauhin’s Pinax (1623), p. 483, which is cited as a synonym of R. spinosissima in Species Plantarum, and with the R. pumila spinosissima foliis pimpinellifoliis glabris flore albo of Jean Bauhin’s Historia Plant arum, Vol. II (1651), p. 40. The rose so named by the Bauhins is indeed the Burnet or Scotch rose, R. pimpinellifolia, but this species is exceedingly rare in Scandinavia and had still to be discovered there in 1753.

Thus from the start R. spinosissima was a confused name. But in cases such as this it is the element actually known to and described by the author that must be taken as the type of the species, which in this instance is the rose of Uppland and Lapland – R. majalis (cinnamomea). The objection that Linnaeus described R. majalis in the first edition of the Species Plantarum as R. cinnamomea is invalid, since the rose so named is R. pendulina. It is the R. cinnamomea of the second edition that is the May or Cinnamon rose, which must now be known as R. majalis J. Herrm.

The unambiguous name R. pimpinellifolia was first published by Linnaeus in 1759 and is used in the second edition of Species Plantarum (1762). The R. spinosissima of this edition, as redefined by Linnaeus in 1759, is R. pimpinellifolia, so far as the diagnosis is concerned, though elements of the old confusion remain. This revised R. spinosissima differed from R. pimpinellifolia in having prickly peduncles against smooth in the latter, and some later botanists continued to recognise both species, adding other supposed differences.

In one of his last works, the Mantissa Altera of 1771, Linnaeus gives an excellent description of the Burnet rose under the name R. spinosissima and comes near to making R. pimpinellifolia a synonym of it. It is therefore not without good reason that some botanists have upheld the name R. spinosissima, and Crépin was perhaps a little unjust in writing of them ‘Ils n’avaient pas étudié les faits avec assez d’attention.’ (Bull. Herb. Boiss., 2nd ser., Vol. 5, p. 143). But the fact remains that the R. spinosissima L. of the first edition of Species Plantarum, where botanical nomenclature starts, is R. majalis. Pointing this out in 1820, the Swedish botanist Wikström proposed that the name R. spinosissima should either be applied to that species or rejected ‘in aeternum’ as a source of confusion (Kongl. Vet. Acad. Handl., 1820, p. 268).


The name R. ochroleuca has been variously used in gardens. The rose grown by Canon Ellacombe under this name seems, judging from herbarium specimens, to have been a beautiful rose, with flowers in twos or threes up to almost 4 in. across, but is obviously a hybrid. Plants distributed commercially as R. ochroleuca are mentioned on p. 101 under ‘Lutea Maxima’. R. spinosissima var. ochroleuca (Swartz) Baker, in Willmott, The Genus Rosa, Vol. II, p. 255, is a compound of four discrepant elements: R. ochroleuca Swartz; the R. spinosissima luteola of Andrews (see f. luteola); R. xanthina (to which the specimen from N. China cited by him belongs); and the rose cultivated by Miss Willmott as R. ochroleuca, which is portrayed in the facing plate and is of uncertain identity.

f. luteola (Andr.) Rehd. (in

R. spinosissima) R. spin. luteola Andr.
Roses , Vol. II, t. 128

The rose portrayed by Andrews was flowering in Knight’s nursery, Chelsea, in 1821, and was said to be a native of Scotland. The flowers were yellowish, and the armature not unlike that of ‘Hispida’, but the leaflets were uncharacteristically elongate for R. pimpinellifolia, and the flowers were borne in July with a repeat in the autumn, which rules out the possibility of its being any form of that species. It was probably a hybrid, raised in Scotland.

f. megalacantha Borbas ex Dengler

Prickles long, much flattened, with an elongated base. A variant of this nature was mentioned in previous editions as var. macracantha, an unpublished name written on a specimen in the Kew Herbarium, collected near Gap in the Alpine region of S.E. France, which has flat, rigid spines {5/8} in. long and {1/4} in. wide at the base.Numerous natural hybrids of R. pimpinellifolia are known, of which the following are treated in this work:Rosa pimpinellifolia × R. canina and related species. See R. × hibernica.” ” × R. sherardii and related species. See R. × involuta.” ” × R. glauca. See under the latter species.” ” × R. pendulina. See R. × reversa.” ” × R. foetida. See R. × harisonii.Crossed with Hybrid Teas, R. pimpinellifolia ‘Grandiflora’ has given rise to some of the finest of the shrub roses. See in the second section: ‘Frühlingsanfang’, ‘Frühlingsgold’, ‘Frühlingsmorgen’, ‘Karl Foerster’ and ‘Maigold’.

'Grandiflora' (“Altaica”)

A suckering shrub up to 6 ft high, differing from R. pimpinellifolia as usually seen in Europe not only in its large size but also in the absence or comparative scarcity of bristles among the prickles of the stems. The flowers are 3 in. across, creamy white, and the leaflets up to 1 in. long. Bot. Reg., t. 888. (R. grandiflora Lindl.; R. spinosissima var. altaica (Willd.) Bean, not R. altaica Willd.; see further under var. altaica).A group of this rose when in full bloom at the end of May makes a very beautiful picture. It was introduced from Siberia before 1820.


A shrub up to 6 ft high, with sturdy, erect stems densely covered with slender, brown bristles. Leaflets five to eleven, {3/4} to 1{1/4} in. long, {3/8} to {1/2} in. wide, glabrous. Flowers yellow at first, changing to creamy white, 2 to 3 in. wide, opening the third or fourth week in May. Bot. Mag., t. 1570. (R. hispida Sims (1813), not Muenchh. (1770); R. lutescens Pursh; R. spinosissima var. hispida (Sims) Koehne).There was some doubt as to the origin of this rose, which was at one time called the ‘Yellow American rose’ and was included by Pursh in his Flora of North America, but there is every reason to believe that it came from Siberia. It has been raised from seed at Kew and comes quite true, which would appear to show that it is not of hybrid origin. It is one of the most lovely of single roses, but uncommon in cultivation.At the end of the 18th century plants were raised in Sweden from seeds received from Russia, and were named R. ochroleuca by Swartz, who further distributed plants and seeds. The first full description, accompanied by an excellent portrait, was published by Wikstrom in Kongl. Vetensk. Acad. Handl. 1820, p. 268 and t. III. Judging from these, R. ochroleuca was very similar to ‘Hispida’, as indeed Wikstrom pointed out.

var. altaica (Willd.) Thory

R. altaica Willd.
R. spinosissima var. altaica (Willd.) Bean

R. altaica Willdenow (1809) is a renaming of the R. pimpinellifolia of Pallas in Flora Rossica, Vol. II (1789), p. 62 and t. 75, which is a Siberian form of the species resembling ‘Hispida’ in its bristly but not prickly stems and its yellowish white flowers. Thory rightly placed R. altaica under R. pimpinellifolia as a variety, but Seringe, in de Candolle’s Prodromus, gives a diagnosis of var. altaica that seems to be based mainly on R. grandiflora Lindl., which he cites as a synonym. The R. spinosissima var. altaica of previous editions of the present work, and of Render’s Manual (1940 edition) is wholly R. grandiflora Lindl. except for the citation R. altaica Willd. But Lindley’s plant (see ‘Grandiflora’) is at the opposite pole to R. altaica Willd. so far as armature is concerned. See further under ‘Hispida’.

var. lutea Bean (in

R. spinosissima )

See ‘Lutea Maxima’, mentioned under R. × harisonii.

var. lutea plena Hort

See ‘Williams’s Double Yellow’, p. 204.

var. myriacantha (DC.) Ser.

R. myriacantha DC

A very distinct variety, with the habit and flowers of ordinary R. pimpinellifolia, but with longer and more numerous spines. The best distinction, however, is furnished by the numerous glands on the leaves beneath as well as on the rachis, stipules, pedicels and sepals, and by the compound toothing of the leaflets. Described from southern France. Glandular plants occur elsewhere in the southern part of the area of R. pimpinellifolia, but do not always have the formidable armature of the type.