China's biodiversity: a country study, pp. 185-186 (1998)
Weiping Zhang (ed.)

Chinese Traditional Roses

*CybeRose. Parks' White and Yellow China Rose was very fragrant, but not Tea-scented.
The Yellow Tea-scented Rose was a self-seedling of the Blush Tea-scented.

In the genus Rosa, distributed widely in warm and subtropical regions of Asia, Europe, Africa and America, there are some 200 species. China possesses 82 Rosa species, making up 41 % of the total world species. The history of rose cultivation in China is long, 40 choice cultivars, all everblooming and double-flowered, being in cultivation during the North Song Dynasty (960-1127 A.D.). During the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, 4 cultivars of 2 China rose species were introduced into European breeders, using these key germplasms in interspecific hybridization with local species successfully produced the first Hybrid Tea Rose (HT) in 1867. The four cultivars introduced into Europe were Rosa chinensis cv. Semperflorens (Slater' Crimson China Rose), R. chinensis cv. Pallida (Parson's Pink China Rose), R. x odorata cv. Hume's Blush Tea-Scented China Rose and R. X odorata cv. Park's Yellow Tea-Scented China Rose*. Their main contribution was to convey such key properties as continuous-blooming and yellow flowers (in some cultivars) to their hybrid progenies, both properties being not found in all European species.

Today, modern roses have developed into 6 groups with over 16,000 cultivars, comprising one of the miracles of flower breeding (the other is the Garden chrysanthemum). Hence, the special historical contribution of old China roses was their key germplasm, through interspecific hybridization, giving the various cultivar diversities to modern roses.

p. 186

There are descriptions and photos of 'Er Du' Mei (twice blooming Mei) from Lijiang, Yunnan Province, but it is reported that the several potted plants of that cultivar died recently. More fortunate are the cultivars of the Flavescens Form: One of its cultivars 'Baiye Xiang' Mei (hundred-petalled light yellow), first described in the "Mei Book", found in 1985 after being lost for several hundred years. Cultivars like 'Huangshan Huangxiang' (Huanghan flavescens) and 'Yushan Huangxiang' (Yushan flavescens), were also discovered during an overall investigation of Mei cultivars in the recent 10 years. But cultivars already found and published are not always secure from desctruction or loss. For example, cultivars like 'Zizhi Xiao' (purple twig small), and 'Qingming Wanfen' (late beauty) identified in the Chinese Mei Flower Cultivars (1989), have been lost in recent years.

Because modern overseas rose cultivars are more preferred to traditional roses by Chinese people, old China rose cultivars are becoming fewer. During the 1950's, there were at least 200 Chinese traditional rose cultivars in gardens and parks (some 60 cultivars at Yanling, Henan Province) alone. Today, old cultivars are not commonly seen, only less than 100 traditional ones surviving. If not remedied or saved, the motherland of roses is becoming full of modern rose cultivars (from over 95% to nearly 100%) except for a few fine traditional cultivars.