Rosa gallica written by Ellen Willmott

Rosa gallica Linnaeus

Rosa gallica Rosa gallica: caule brevi, stricto, erecto; aculeis inaequalibus, sparsis, gracilibus, rectis; foliolis 5-7, oblongis, subacutis, simpliciter serratis, subcoriaceis, facie viridibus, rugosis, dorso ad venas elevates interdum pubescentibus; rhachi pubescente, glandulosa; stipulis apice libero ovato, leviter glanduloso-ciliato; floribus solitariis vel paucis; pedunculis glandulosis et aciculatis; calysis tubo globoso, aciculate; lobis dorso glandulosis, exterioribus pinnatifidis; petalis majoribus, splendide rubris; stylis villosis, liberis, haud protrusis; fructu subgloboso, saturate rubro, persistente; sepalis reflexis, demum caducis.

R. gallica Linnaeus, Sp. Plant. vol. i. p. 492 (1753). -Miller, Icones, t. 221, fig. 2 (1760); Gard. Dict. ed. 8, No. 20 (1768). -Aiton, Hort. Kew. vol. ii. p. 205 (1789). -Roessig. Die Rosen, Nos. 17, 45 (1802-1820). -Guimpel, Willdenow & Hayne, Abbild. Deutsch Holzart, vol. i. p. 118, t. 89 (1815). -Nouv. Duhamel, vol. vii. P. 39, t. 8 (1819). -Thory, Prodr. Monogr. Ros. p. 86 (1820); in Redouté, Roses, vol. iii. p. 57, t. (1824).-Lindley, Ros. Monogr. p. 68, No. 41 (1820); in Bot. Reg. vol. vi. t. 448 (1820). -Trattinick, Ros. Monogr. vol. i. p. 30 (1823). -Seringe in De Candole, Prodr. vol. ii. p. 603 (1825). -Hayne, Arzn. vol. xi. t. 30 (1830). -Boissier, Fl. Orient. vol. ii. p. 676 (1872).- Christ, Rosen Schweiz, p. 198 (1873). -Déséglise in Bull. Soc. Bot. Belg. vol. xv. p. 246 (Cat. Rais. Ros. p. 77 [1877]) (1876). -Crepin in Bull. Soc. Bot. Belg. vol. xviii. p. 343 (Primit. Monogr. Ros. fasc. v. p. 589[1880]) (1879); vol. xxxi. pt. 2. p. 72 (1892). -Bentley & Trimen, Med. Plants, vol. ii. t. 104 (1880).-Koehne, Deutsche Dendrol. p. 281 (1893). - Keller in Ascherson & Graebner, Syn. Mitteleur Fl. vol. vi. p. 47 (1900). -Rehder in Bailey, Cycl. Am Hort. vol. iv. p. 1552 (1902). -C. K. Schneider, Ill. Handbuch Laubholzk. vol. i. p. 547 (1906).

R. austriaca Crantz, Stirp. Austr. pt. I pp. 33-34 (1763).
R. rubra Lamarck, Fl. Franc. vol. iii. p. 130 (1778).
R. formosa Roessig. Die Rosen, No. 50 (1802-1820).
R. holosericea Roessig, Die Rosen, No. 49 (1802-1820).
R. belgica Brotero, Fl. Lusit. vol. ii. p. 338 (1804).
R. cordifolia Host. Fl. Austr. vol. ii. p. 23 (1831).

Stem short, stiffly erect. Prickles unequal, scattered, straight, slender. Leaflets 5-7, oblong, subacutate or cuspidate, middle-sized, simply toothed, subcoriaceous, raised veins beneath; petioles pubescent and slightly glandular; stipules adnate, with slightly ciliated ovate free tips. Flowers 1-3, fragrant, peduncles densely glandular and aciculate. Calyx-tube globose, sciculate; lobes glandular on the back, the outer pinnatifid. Petals dark red, about an inch long in the wild plant. Styles villous, free, not protruded beyond the disc. Fruit subglobose, dark red, persistent; sepals reflexing, finally deciduous.

The classical writers restricted the term Rosa to Rosa gallica and its allies, calling the wild briars Cynorrhodon, that is, Dog Rose. Ten kinds of Roses were known to Pliny, but we have no means of identifying them. This is the Rosa sativa of Dodonaeus, the Rosa rubra of Gerard's catalogue of plants growing in his Holborn gargen in 1596, and the Rosa Milesia rubra flore pleno of Besler's Hortus Eystettensis (1).

Rosa gallica is distributed in a wild state through central and southern Europe, reaching eastward to the Caucasus. Although it hybridizes freely and has given rise to many wild as well as garden forms, it is an exceedingly well-marked species, and its dominant characters are transmitted in a greater or lesser degree to all the hybrids. The rather thick, wrinkled leaflets, generally five in number, are hoary below, and smooth, rather pale green above, and the running roots throw up numerous stiff stems which rarely exceed three feet in height. The flowers are large in proportion, generally solitary, rarely exceeding three, and very fragrant. These characters make the gallica Roses easy to recognize.

There is a large number of spontaneous hybrids, for in its wild state Rosa gallica habitually hybridizes with Rosa canina L., Rosa arvensis Huds., and other species. Many of the subordinate wild forms have been described as species by Boreau, Déséglise, Gandoger, and others; but the characters upon which they based their conclusions are now generally regarded as secondary. Rouy (2) gives a dichotomic table setting forth the characters of the recognized gallica forms existing in France, Corsica, and Alsace-Lorraine. This table is invaluable to those interested in wild Roses of France and of this particular group, which is of infinite beauty. The Abbé Cariot's Etudes des Fleurs should also be studied by those interested in the wild gallica forms. Rosa gallica has never been admitted into the British Flora, although it was found growing wild in Surrey by that accurate observer, the late Mr. Wilson Saunders.

If the wild hybrids are numerous, the garden varieties are even more so. It would appear that the pioneers of Rose-raising from seed were the Dutch nurserymen, who seem to have been the first to engage in it to any large extent. It was doubtless their success in raising tulips, hyacinths, and other flowers from seed which caused them to turn their attention to Roses. Their first experiments were with the gallicas, and to glance at Van Eden's catalogues will show the great number of gallica hybrids raised and named by them at Haarlem during the first half of the eighteenth century, Up to that time the number of varieties grown in the old gardens was very limited, if we may judge by the records of Parkinson, Gerard, Dillenius, La Quintenye, and other early writers.

French interest in Rose-raising began early in the nineteenth century and was due in a great measure to the Empress Josephine, who was as enthusiastic and enlightened patroness of gardening. At her wish Dupont collected all the most beautiful Roses to be found at the time. He had every opportunity of making a fine collection, for he was founder of the celebrated Rose Garden of the Luxembourg, which was then still under his direction. According to Paul (3), Kennedy, the owner of the famous Vine Nurseries at Hammersmith, was granted a passport enabling him to go to and from Paris during the war solely for the purpose of assisting the Empress with her garden at La Malmaison. Descemet of St. Denis seems to have been the first Frenchman who went seriously into the raising of Roses, although others were working in the same direction. His seedlings, amounting to some ten thousand in number, were in danger of being destroyed by the second entry of the Allies into Paris in 1815. The whole collection of little plants was transplanted by Vibert to his own nursery at Chenevièvre-sur-Marne, and the greater part survived. An immense impetus was thus given to Rose-raising in France about this time, and great emulation was aroused among the growers, among whom were Vibert, Laffay, Prévost, Desportes, Hardy, etc. Vibert's name is especially connected with Rosa gallica hybrids, and some of the most beautiful varieties originated in his garden. The fashion for Roses soon reached this country, and we find Mason, Loddiges, and Lee and Kennedy among the first to grow in quantity. The Rosa gallica hybrids still played a prominent part. Out of 1,059 varieties enumerated in Sweet's Hortus Britannicus (1827) by far the greater number are gallicas. William Paul mentions 471 gallicas by name, as well as a large number of gallica crosses with various other species (4). Loddiges of Hackney grew 2,500 Roses, of which a large part were gallicas.

Mrs. Gore's Rose Fancier's Manual (1838) was published with the avowed purpose of encouraging English growers, for hitherto pre-eminence in Rose-growing had remained with the French.

Many illustrations of these Roses were made during the time when they were in such high favour. Among them may be cited the four plates in Miss Lawrance's Roses under the heading gallica, "The Giant Rose", "Red Officinal Rose", "Rosa Mundi versicolor", and "Royal Virgin Rose" (5). Roessig had three plates, "Gallica duplex", "Gallica superbissima", "Gallica maxima" (6); and Andrews' three drawings are called "Red gallica", "Striped French Rose, Rosa Mundi", and "Marbled-flowered variety" (7). Redouté has a most beautiful series of drawings of some sixteen; many of them are unsurpassed for charm of colour and delicacy of drawing, and they excite admiration not only for the genius of the artist, but also for the skill of the French Rose-growers, who could produce such perfect flowers.

1. Vern. Ordo. VI. fol. 3. t. 3 (1613).
2. Flore de France, vol. vi. p. 256 (1900).
3. Rose Garden, p. 73 (1848).
4. Ib. pt. 2. pp. 40 seq. (1848).
5. Nos. 4, 43, 76, 88 (1799).
6. Die Rosen, t. 7 (1802-1820).
7. Roses, vol. i. T. 45, 46, 47 (1805).

Text from The Genus Rosa by Ellen Willmott, 1910
Drawing by Alfred Parsons