American Rose Annual 28: 139-140 (1943)
Getting Rid of Blues and Thorns
State College, Brookings, South Dakota

EDITOR'S NOTE.— No more effective scientific worker than Dr. Hansen can be credited to America. He aims high and he keeps firing.

Prof. Niels E. Hansen and Zitkala Rose
Prof. Hansen is working for thornless roses that are hardy and do not "blue."

FOR many years I have worked with Rosa blanda as found native in South Dakota and western Minnesota north into Manitoba, hoping to get rid of its thorns. The work began in 1895, my first year in South Dakota, when a native thornless rose was collected at Lake Oakwood some eighteen miles northwest of Brookings. My first cross from this material gave Tetonkaha (Bulletins 224 and 240) and many more. Tetonkaha was introduced in 1912.

Lillian Gibson (1938) is probably the best of the pink Blanda hybrids. A strong sprout of Lillian Gibson planted in spring of 1938 bore 31 flowers in 1939, about 237 in 1940, and fully as many in 1941 and 1942. The flowers are entirely sterile, no seed-hips ever forming. (See "Modern Roses II").

From the Tetonkaha were developed Amdo, Kitana, Okaga, Sioux Beauty, Tegala, Teton Beauty, Yanka, Yuhla, Zani, Zika; but the thorns were still there. They are a nuisance.

When the first double thornless roses appeared, three were named and distributed in spring of 1938: Pax Amanda, Pax Apollo, Pax lola. All are Blanda hybrids, and all pink. The lavender-pink or mauve of the wild Blanda persisted.

But, as in the poem by Robert Burns, "a red, red, rose" was highly desirable. Finally, in 1941 among a lot of seedlings blooming for the first time, Zitkala appeared. It was introduced in the 1942 spring list as Zitkala: A hardy double thornless red rose, now offered for the first time. The wood is smooth except for some weak bristles and a very few small thorns near the base of the main shoots. (Not yet quite a Pax rose, as the Pax roses should be quite thornless.) Flowers a brilliant velvety red, nearly 3 inches across, with 25 petals. A typical Rosa blanda plant, of strong upright habit, with red bark. After many years this is the first "break" away from the light lavender-pink of the wild rose, to get the blue out of the red.

Zitkala is the Teton Sioux Indian word for "bird." (Pronounce "a" as in "father.") Pedigree: Rosa blanda (from Bonanza Springs, western Minnesota, on the east shore of Bigstone Lake) X pollen of the Amadis (or Crimson Boursault), an old English rose with deep crimson-purple flowers.

In June, 1942, the original plant of Zitkala bloomed in profusion, with over 250 flowers. No seed-hips resulted, so far. Taking the thorns away and getting the blue out of the red is a double effort, but it is worth while to tame this beautiful wild American rose. (See picture on plate facing page 150.)

I am trying hopefully to work out a formula for taking off all the thorns. Or, in larger words, to make thornlessness a dominant homozygote. As to methods, the tender roses are planted in reconditioned butter tubs, wintered in cellar, and brought into greenhouse as needed. Part of the pollen to be used is kept cool and dry in a refrigerator (with sulphuric acid) and used as needed, according to modern methods.

Rose understocks, hardy and thornless, are greatly needed for rapid propagation. Sprouts from the original seedlings are certain but slow; but the search goes on.


The year 1941 with me marks red color in apples as well as in roses, for I am working for red applies with red flesh and red flowers. The largest so far is Almata. This was 2 1/3 inches across in 1941 and 2 1/2 inches in 1942, and was a good juicy subacid eating apple. The name is abbreviated from Alma Ata, in northeast Kazakstan, now an important point on the airplane route from Russia to China. Mr. Niedzwetzky first found this red-fleshed apple in the TianShan Mountains near Alma Ata (then Vierny) when I visited him in the fall of 1897. The apple was named Pyrus Malus Niedzwetzkyana. From it I grew the Hopa crab now popular in many states, also the Red Tip and Redflesh crab. My son Carl A. Hansen, of Brookings, S. D., originated the Red Silver, a widely popular red-flowered crab.

I hope eventually for a 3-inch red-flesh apple, including, of course, extreme hardiness and good eating quality.

New experimental work like this in roses and apples is of national and international importance, and should be privately endowed as well as given greater public support, so that it may continue on a permanent basis.