Journal of Ecology 2005. 93, 441–470
BIOLOGICAL FLORA OF THE BRITISH ISLES* No. 239
List Br. Vasc. Pl. (1958) no. 225, 5

Rosa rugosa Thunb. ex Murray
HANS HENRIK BRUUN

No subspecies of R. rugosa have been recognized in the British Isles. Despite the many cultivated varieties of the species, mainly forms close to the wild type are seen naturalized. However, naturalized clones may be confused with R. x hollandica (syn. R. x kamtchatica). This taxon differs morphologically from R. rugosa by having soft-textured, dull leaflets, without prominent veins, less prickly stems, conspicuously glandular sepals, and smaller flowers and hips (Rutherford 1990).

Rosa rugosa was cultivated in Britain at the end of the 18th century under the name R. ferox (Bean 1980), although when and from where it was introduced is uncertain. Loudon (1844) lists ‘R. rugosa Thun., a native of Nepal’ under hardy species not yet introduced, but under ‘R. ferox Lawr., a native of Caucasus, introduced 1796’, he describes a var. ‘nitens Lindl.’ with shiny leaves, and var. ‘kamtchatica’ with opaque leaves. Possibly R. rugosa first came from Kamchatka to France and was described under the name R. kamtchatica (Ventenat 1800). According to Dickerson (1999, p. 222), colour plates based on Ventenat’s plants show pure R. rugosa. In any case, R. rugosa seems to have been forgotten, and when reintroduced to Britain from Japan in the 1870s under the name R. regeliana, it was hailed as a novelty and soon spread in gardens (Bean 1980). According to Dickerson (1999, p. 223) the ‘Regeliana’ form was introduced from Japan through St. Petersburg. However, the Bavarian physicist P.F.B. von Siebold simultaneously introduced an array of Japanese plant species to Europe, including R. rugosa var. alba (Christenhusz & van Uffelen 2001). An introduction through several parallel routes seems plausible. Rosa rugosa is extensively used in breeding of cultivated roses, due to its hardiness and disease resistant foliage. Along with R. x hollandica, it has been widely used as rootstock for grafted roses. Both species are now often seen in neglected gardens and rubbish dumps, from where they spread.


CybeRose note: I enjoy this sort of note because it brings together several old errors so that they can be handled at once.

For instance, Rosa kamtchatica Vent. cannot be a synonym for R. x hollandica, which was bred ca. 1888.

The notion that Rosa ferox Lawr. was native to the Caucasus involved two errors. Bieberstein started the mess by describing (1808) a rose collected in the rocky southern Taurus mountains, but misidentifying it as Rosa provincialis. He later (1819) changed his mind and misidentified the same plant as R. ferox Lawr. I don't know who was responsible for confusing the Taurus mountains with the Caucasus.

Whether R. kamchatica and R. rugosa are the same species is a matter of dispute. Lindley (1820) was adamant that the dull leaves of R. kamchatica positively distinguished it from R. ferox. A few years later, he happily added nitens, a variety of this species with shining leaves. As for the paired infrastipular prickles ...

Of course, Lindley steadfastly refused to identify R. rugosa with R. ferox.

The rose described by Andre (1873) may have had rugose leaves, but otherwise was not much like R. rugosa Thunb. It was too large overall, it bore its flowers in corymbs rather than singly, and it rebloomed which the genuine R. rugosa does not.