Annual of the Rose Society of Ontario, pp. 46-51 (1937)
WHAT HAVE WE IN THE ROSE GENUS?
By Percy H. Wright, Wilkie, Sask.

As long as one's interest in Roses is confined to their cultivation for beauty and fragrance he will be content to tread in the old pathway of the Hybrid Teas. As soon, however, as his interest awakens in Roses as plants, as living creatures struggling with a hostile world as he himself struggles, he will take up the species.

The charm of a Rose bush is immensely increased by the knowledge that we behold, not the product of man's interference, but some wildling that maintains itself without human aid, it may be on some mountain chain in the fastnesses of Asia, like Altaica, or high in the Swiss and Tyrolean Alps, like rubrifolia, or in the very shadow of the Arctic Circle, like our own acicularis. These, and others like them, such as Moyesii, with its unique flowers, and the delicate-leaved Willmottiae, both from central China, bear to our very doors something of the romance of distant and alien lands. It may take more imagination to appreciate the species than the long-budded, elegant Hybrid Teas, but I am not sure that the greater pleasure is not always with imagination rather than reality. A Rose garden without wild Roses is surely a poor thing.

Certain verses which I once read, but of which, unfortunately, I can quote only a few lines, express the attraction that is inherent in the wildling Roses:

"Come, let us wander in the close
I have given to the Rose:
There, in the early blush of dawn
The sun falls tenderly upon
Rose buds of all the world, and there
They burgeon in the morning air.
There crimson flowers open free
That blossom by the Yellow Sea

After a few stanzas more, night approaches—

"There drop the petals rich as cream
That on the Scottish beaches gleam,
And there, at eve, my garden mould
Is all bestrewn with Persian gold

So it continued, mentioning species after species, especially those which wander over great areas, or inhabit colourful lands of the East. I took note of how much better poetry the species made than do the modem artificial creations. I cannot remember further lines sufficiently well to quote, but do recall that the poet went on to praise certain of the "old Roses" which are so full of historic association, such as Damascena—which the Crusaders, perhaps, brought back from Syria at the very dawn of the present age, and such as York and Lancaster, redolent of memories, in Wordsworthian phrase, of

"Far-off unhappy things
And battles long ago."

He also mentioned Prairie Queen, the century-old hybrid of Setigera (native as far north as Ontario and Northern Michigan), which M. H. Horvath is now exploiting anew in his Doubloons and the remainder of the "Treasure Island" series (Captain Kidd, Jean Lafitte and Long John Silver—Ed.) Further names were chosen by the versifier, I am sure, not so much for the value of the flower as for the rich associations of the names themselves-such as Ariadne, Daphne, Meg Merrillees, Jeannie Deans, and last but not least, Soleil d'Or, the "Golden Sun" that soon lighted up the whole race of the Pernetianas with bright new colour.

But I am borrowing thunder too freely in trying to give an account of a poem which, despite the impression it made, has not remained with me. I wish I had memorized it, so as to be able to bring back more easily the mood it crystallized so well. I did note, however, how suitably the species Roses mangled their names with those of the old historic varieties. After all, if there is antiquarian value in Roses, the wildlings have many times as much as the very oldest of the "old Roses."

How long ago, for instance, was it that pendulina (whose possibilities for sharing in the synthesis of hardy climbers, hardly yet touched upon by any breeder are indicated by its name) ascended again into the cold heights of the Alps in company with its brother sort, rubrifolia, the unique redleaf Rose, whence they had been driven by the coming of the Ice Age? Pendulina, indeed, may have climbed back again unchanged by its sojourn in the valley, but the parent of rubrifolia there met a Rose of an alien and Southern race. In other words, strange pollen fell on it, and when the high, rocky cliffs saw it once more it bore in its cells two extra sets of "coloured bodies," or chromosomes, the heredity bearers, one of which came from a race related to the Teas, and one from a member of the macrophylla group, wandering westward from the Himilaya country. No one knows all this for certain, of course, but the story is deduced from Dr. C. C. Hurst's analysis of its cell-constitution. This analysis gives it the formula, D-DAE, wherein one D represents the male or pollen cell of the cinnamomea group (to which our own native blanda belongs), the other D the component of the female or egg cell of the same race, the A a tagging-on constituent of the egg cell drawn from the most nearly semitropical race of the Rose genus, the chinensis-multiflora-setigera-multiflora group, and the E the aforementioned denizen of the eastern slopes of the Himilayas.

The above details are theoretical, but it is perfectly well established that in rubrifolia, as in all the canina group to which it belongs, there is an unbalanced relation of the male and female elements. The male cell is always simple, with only one set of chromosomes. In the various canina species from two to five extra sets may "tag along" in the egg cell. Cytological work done in Europe leaves no doubt of this.

The result is that the world now has Rose species of all sorts of adaptation, from mountain to sandy beach, from desert to swamp and jungle. At the one extreme is gigantea, the rampant climber of the eastern Asiatic forest, where its canes attain a length of sixty feet or more, in correspondence with the heat and moisture of its habitat. At the other extreme are the dwarfer forms of spinosissima, the Scotch Rose, and suffulta, or pratincola, the little dry-land Rose of the western plains of Canada and the United States. It blooms when scarcely three inches high, never reaches a height in excess of one foot, and hence may have a place in rock gardens. Its flower is of good size despite the diminutiveness of the plant, and, wonder of wonders, it is recurrent blooming.

Practically all the ever-blooming habit of domestic Roses has been obtained from the semi-tropic species, where, of course, we are not surprised to find it. There are four northern species, and perhaps more, which are ever-blooming. These are rugosa, beggeriana, suffulta, and that Ishmael of Roses, the Ross Rambler. None of these have been more than touched as yet, and the last two of them are almost Canadian monopolies. Rugosa has been worked for some time but always in crosses with the tender Roses, which it has had no difficulty in dominating. Hybridized with other hardy species it is much more ready to yield up its characteristics, some of which, such as loose, sprawling habit and excessive thorniness, are distinctly undesirable. Both of the two notable attempts to break away from the old line of effort in utilizing rugosa have been made at Ottawa. The first gave us Agnes, the prize-winning offspring of rugosa and pollen of Persian Yellow. The second gave us Carmenetta, the offspring of rubrifolia and pollen of rugosa. Here I find myself back to the topic of rubrifolia. Scientists like to check their results obtained on one line of effort by results obtained on another. The rubrifolia-hybrid, Carmenetta, is the best possible practical confirmation of the theory of the chromosome-constitution of rubrifolia as advanced by Dr. Hurst. Some telescoping seems to have taken place in the origination of Carmenetta, whereby the whole vigour of the Japanese species was added to the whole vigour of the Alpine. Neither rugosa nor rubrifolia, as is well-known, is likely to exceed five to six feet, but Carmenetta reaches a height of eleven feet or more. This height is not attained, either, by reaching up slender, recurving stems like those of a climber; neither is it a pillar Rose. It is, rather, an extraordinarily large and sturdy bush Rose, in vigour more like a Chinese lilac. The only possible explanation is that the parents are sufficiently far removed that the factors, or genes, for vigour do not overlap, but supplement each other. Assuming for the moment that Dr. Hurst's analysis represents the true state of affairs, the constitution of Carmenetta must be C-DAE, where C is the contribution of rugosa. The most learned scientist, however, could not have prophesied the result which was obtained. This is one of the surprises of plant-breeding.

No one knows what will be the result of combining genes until he has actually combined them. In our day, too, the limits of fertility seem to be wider than was believed. The recent Russian and Canadian crosses between wheat and wild grasses, the very suggestions of which would have been laughed out of court a few years ago, have startled the world into the realization that it is seldom safe to prophesy failure. Now we have Father Schoener in California assuring us that be intends to hybridize Roses with apples. I do not think it likely of accomplishment, but, in view of recent experience, fear even to seem doubtful.

The nicest part of the proof concerning rubrifolia, however, is yet to be stated. Our Miss Isabella Preston not only put rugosa pollen on rubrifolia, giving us Carmenetta, but also put rubrifolia pollen on rugosa, producing hybrids of little value, which, naturally, she has not introduced. The former cross would be expressed by C (C + D) DAE, giving C-DAE, as already seen; and the latter by D (DAE + C) C, giving C-D. Carmenetta inherits the red-leaf character of rubrifolia while the other hybrids do not. Evidently the genes for coloured foliage lie in the AE constituent of rubrifolia. This one-way inheritance of the coloured-leaf character fits very nicely into the theory.

I find it very difficult to decide which is the more interesting, the actual hybridization work with its unknown possibilities, or the analysis of the relationship of the Rose species. There are some six hundred species in the genus rosa. What remains to be done, both in hybridization and in classification, is enormous.

The old systematic botanical classifications are all alike valueless if intended to indicate anything approaching a family tree of the Rose. They were made before the days of cytology and chromosome analysis, that is, in entire ignorance of the most important distinguishing character of the genera.

Of more recent classifications I know of only two. The first is that already mentioned, made by Dr. C. C. Hurst, of Cambridge. It, doubtless, was too far-reaching and too hurried, and frequently based upon insufficient evidence. Nevertheless, I believe that further investigation will substantiate a great deal both of what Dr. Hurst has summed up and of what he has added. His way of cancelling out nondistinguishing characteristics of the species is immensely attractive.

The second analysis was made by Miss Erlanson at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is undoubtedly scientific and sound in its more restricted range. Her work covered North American Roses only, and was, I believe, discontinued upon her recent marriage and departure for India. Someone should extend the scope of her investigation and cover the Roses of the world. Most of the American Roses belong, or are related to, the fourth of the Hurst groups, the D or cinnamomea group, and hence are restricted in variation and interest. The other four, in all their richness, are found chiefly in the old world.

A brief synopsis of Hurst's findings will not be out of place here. The home of the A or tender group is the warm-temperate zone of Southern Europe, North Africa and South Asia. To this Hurst adds a solitary member from America,—setigera. The B group comprises the lutea or yellow briar family, at home from Persia to North China, in dry, hot situations with sharp nights and cold winters. The C group is rugosa and its relatives, at home on the sea-coasts of Japan and the nearby Asiatic mainland. The D group undoubtedly is the hardiest, and occurs in northern North America, Siberia, and northern Europe. The E group, to which belongs the giant form macrophylla, is native of south-eastern Asia. The canina group, a composite one containing elements of all these, are inferred to be more modem, and occur in Central Europe.

This theory is the very matter which should now have the closest investigation. I, for one, find myself much disappointed with the range of interest of most Rose-lovers. Thousands of dollars are spent every year for so-called "novelties," which are anything but novel, since they are merely re-hashings of the exhausted Hybrid Tea stock. Unlimited money and enthusiasm for varieties which experience has shown will mostly be as stale as yesterday's news in a year or two, and not a cent, not a thought, for the acquisition of new blood and the extension of knowledge! But perhaps I am misjudging Rose-lovers. It may be that they are merely unaware of the richness of the genus rosa, and do not realize the opportunity which it offers.