American Rose Annual 23: 50-52 (1938)
Sporting Tendencies of Newer vs. Older Roses
P. J. Hjort,
Thomasville, Georgia

Editors' Note. — Mr. Hjort has had long and extensive experience with the Tea roses of which he writes. He suggests reasons for some variations that have been mystifying. If now someone will come forward with a suggestion as to why a rose sports in its youth, aside from the stated "settling down" process, then we may come to study the how of causing sports. Sports tend to occur when a considerable number of a variety are grown under favorable conditions.

NEW hybrid seedling roses require a certain time to become fixed through vegetative propagation, just as new strains of annuals require time to fix their distinctive properties. Sporting tendencies have been greatly increased with the advent of Hybrid Teas, especially the Pernetianas. A new hybrid rose seedling contains, from the very start, the chromosomes for all the colors and other changes of which it is capable, for which reason these changes usually occur within the first few years of its life. Any factors which do not manifest themselves within that period are recessive and finally disappear.

Roses more than a quarter of a century old rarely sport, their characters having become fixed. Thus the well-known Tea rose, Safrano (1839), produced one sport, Isabella Sprunt, introduced in 1865, and possibly several years old at the time of its introduction. Rêve d'Or (1869) was once classed as a Tea, and said to be a sport of Safrano, but is now definitely called a Noisette.

Catherine Mermet, Maman Cochet, and Killarney have similar sporting records, as per this diagram:

Type White Sport Darker Sport Climbing Pink Climbing White
Maman Cochet (1893) White Maman Cochet (1893)
Maman Cochet White (1896)
Niles Cochet (1906) Climbing Maman Cochet (1909) Climbing White Maman Cochet (1907)
Catherine Mermet (1869) The Bride (1885)
White Catherine Mermet (1887)
Bridesmaid (1893)
Climbing Catherine Mermet (1912) Climbing Bridesmaid (1897)
Ruth Vestal (1908)
Killarney (1898) White Killarney (1909) Killarney Queen (1912)
Brilliant Killarney (1914)
Climbing Killarney (1909) Pink Killarney (1910)

It will be noted that the color variations usually appear first and the climbing forms later.

There is also an analogy between La France and Radiance, both two-toned pinks in their original forms. An absence of white sports is noted in both, although each has a darker and a lighter sport. La France (1867) may have shown other variations, but as sporting was not epidemic in 1867, they have not been recorded.

As to Radiance sports, only Red Radiance and Mrs. Charles Bell follow the type closely in plant-growth, foliage, and form of the flowers. Mary Nish is a distinct departure, being rather inferior and quite different. It is not white, nor has it any other points to recommend it except its vigorous growth. The three main kinds of Radiance often produce flowers of any two on the same bush, but never all three on the same plant. This habit is fast disappearing, showing that the variety is becoming fixed. Mary Nish has never participated in this exchange of courtesy. I feel justified in believing that the much-desired White Radiance will have to come from a source other than as a Radiance sport.

If the White Radiance registered in 1936 is a true Radiance sport, and of good form and color, it will be a most agreeable surprise.

The bicolors are the most prolific producers of sports; self-colors rarely sport. Talisman (1929), while only a few years old, has produced more sports than any other rose in commerce. There may be a cause for this. It appears that hybrids derived from widely different strains resent the mutually alien elements combined in their make-up, and try to separate their colors and other features into their component parts. This is largely the case with Talisman sports. Another factor is that Talisman is only a few years old, and has not had enough time to become fixed. It is an open question if all the variants registered as sports should really be regarded as such until they are better fixed than Talisman sports are at present.

There are exceptions to the rule of separating into the various colors. An example of this is Radio, a sport from Condesa de Sastago. Radio, however, seems inclined to lose the striped feature and to come either all pink or all yellow.

It is possible that climbing sports from Hybrid Teas may play a major rôle in the development and fixation of sports as well as original seedlings, from the fact that, during the first few years of life of many of these Climbers, a large percentage of young budded plants revert to the bush form, a habit which they gradually lose. These reverts are, as a rule, much stronger growers than those propagated from original bush plants, and as the Climbers show less inclination to vary in the color of the flowers, we may here have a combination for fixation of sports. We have never observed an off-colored flower on any of the three sorts of Climbing Radiance. Climbing Talisman reverts nearly 50 per cent to bush form, and these reverts conform much better to the color type than those grown from the original bush stock. It is to be hoped that Climbing Mary Hart will give us the same service, as the bush form so far is sadly lacking in consistency.

It is too early to determine the approximate time required for Pernetianas and other bicolors to become fixed, but as they vary rapidly, perhaps they will finish quickly. There is no record of the fixation of such bicolor Teas as Mme. de Watteville and Mme. Welche, though the originators doubtless had their headaches!

Just why every little variation in Talisman should be sent out as a sport is difficult to see. Max Krause varies enough in color to mimic closely Joanna Hill, Sunkist, Amelia Earhart, Mrs. E. P. Thorn, and Golden Dawn, yet nobody apparently has tried to name these variations as sports. The double Killarney sports may be disregarded in this criticism, as they represent exceptional skill and ideal conditions plus careful selection, and seem to lose their distinctive qualities under common field culture. Many other roses grow more petals during cool weather and fewer during hot weather, especially if dry.

Summing up the evidence, it is plain that newer roses sport much more freely than the older ones, and probably finish sooner. It is quite probable that this feature links up with longevity in the various classes. The older Tea roses have shown little inclination to sport, and are, under favorable conditions, very long-lived.


Dayton, D. F., 1970. New apple strains developed by forcing shoots on disbudded trees. Ill. Res. 12(2): 10.
Abstract: The technique of forcing adventitious shoots was used to test for genetic mutations in the internal wood of Golden Delicious, Mclntosh and several strains of Red Delicious. Disbudding had no effect on Golden Delicious, but one or more adventitious shoots formed on all the treated Mclntosh and Red Delicious trees. Of 25 trees developed from adventitious shoots, 15 exhibited fruit or tree characters more or less different from the source variety. Results from investigations of changes in fruit pigmentation indicated that cells may carry mutations affecting two or more characters and that the internal wood-may be heterogeneous, containing two or more kinds of genetically different tissues.