Gardeners' Chronicle July 7, 1906

Jour. Roy. Hort. Soc. p. lxxviii (1907)
Yellow Rose from Palestine.—Mr. A. W. Sutton, V.M.H., read a letter from a correspondent concerning a yellow rose which grew near Baalbec, specimens of which he also showed. Dr. Masters recognised the rose as Rosa lutea, and Sir John Llewellyn said he had seen it growing so profusely on the northern slopes of Mount Lebanon as to make a mass of colour visible at the distance of a mile.

WHAT is the Austrian Brier, and whence did it come? These questions occurred to us in a singular way. Not long since a correspondent enquired about a yellow-flowered Rose occurring in Syria, where the profusion and beauty of the flowers were very noteworthy, as noted also on the slopes of Lebanon by Sir John Llewelyn. From the description given, we conjectured that the plant was the Rosa lutea of Miller, of the Botanical Magazine (tab. 363), and of Lindley's Monograph of Roses (1820, p. 84). This conjecture was verified by the inspection of Syrian specimens obtained subsequently by Mr. Arthur Sutton. This plant was called by Linnaeus Rosa Eglanteria, a name adopted in the Index Kewensis, which is unfortunate for many reasons, which we need not discuss here. When the Syrian flowers just mentioned were subsequently submitted to Col. Prain, the Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, he at once recognised them as those of an Indian Rose—R, Eglanteria of Linnaeus, which is, as we have said, synonymous with R. lutea of Miller. It is described in Sir Joseph Hooker's Flora of British India (II., 1897, p. 360), and stated to be a native of the drier parts of the Himilayas from Kistwar westward, and in Western Tibet. Afghanistan, Asia Minor, and Siberia are also mentioned as countries wherein this Rose is found native. Hooker expressly calls this the Austrian Rose, and cites Jacquin, Hort. Vindob, I., t 1. Nicholson also calls it by this name. Sir Dietrich Brandis and Boissier both name it Rosa lutea. Boissier in his Flora Orientalis (II., 1872, p. 671), mentions the "Persian yellow " as possibly a form of this species (lutea), and in William Paul's Rose Garden, Rosa lutea is made to include the following varieties: Copper, double yellow, Harrisoni, a hybrid said to have been introduced from America, Persian Yellow, etc. In Gibelli's Flora Italiana (p. 677) Rosa lutea is mentioned as growing wild in hedges in Piedmont, Venice and Naples. Gremli, in his Flora of Switzerland, translated by Paitson, speaks of this species as apparently quite spontaneous on the gypseous rocks near Nax, Decaisne, and Naudin Manuel (p. 102) remarks that it (lutea or Capucine) seems to be indigenous to the centre and south of Europe, where, however, it may be merely naturalised. Coste in his Manual of the Flora of France does not mention it, nor is it entered in the Belgian floras. Nyman in his Conspectus Florae Europae tells us that R. lutea has been mentioned as occurring in Southern Europe, but that it is there only sub-spontaneous. Lindley in his monograph above cited mentions a variety punicea, "floribus bicoloribus," which we mention because he cites as synonymous R sylvestris Austriaca, flore phoeniceo, Hort. Angl. 66, 18, and R. lutea bicolor, Jacquin Hort. Vind., 1. t. 1.; Sims Bot. Mag., t. 1077, and others which it is not necessary for our present purpose to enumerate. Crépin included the species lutea in his section Luteae. Baker in these columns, August 15, 1885, p. 199, kept up Miller's name of lutea and arranged it in his group Rubiginosae, but in his more recent revision in the Journal of the Linnean Society, February 16, 1905, he alters his opinion, adopts Linnaeus' name of Eglanteria (giving Miller's name lutea as a synonym), and places it in his Group VII. Spinosissimae. We might pursue this part of the subject much more fully, but only at the risk of wearying the reader.

From what has been said it seems clear that Rosa lutea or the so-called Austrian Brier is of Eastern origin and that it is not really native in any part of Europe, though met with here and there in a naturalised condition. How it received the name Austrian is a mystery, though it is easy to conjecture that it may have been introduced from the Levant into Austria and distributed thence into Flanders in the 15th or 16th century. Thus Dodoens and Bauhin both speak of Rosa lutea, but we have not their works at hand to verify our reference. Matthiolus in his Commentaries on Dioscorides (1558) mentions Roses growing in Italy as conspicuous for their golden colour (quae aureo colore fulgent).

Our own Gerard, who is generally rather credulous, narrates the following story, but he publishes it with all reservations:—

"The yellow Rose which (as divers do report) was by Art so coloured, and altered from his first estate, by grafting a wilde Rose upon a Broome-stalke; whereby (say they) it doth not onely change his colour, but his smell and force. But for my part I having found the contrary by mine owne experience, cannot be induced to beleeue the report: for the roots and off-springs of this Rose have brought forth yellow Roses, such as the maine stocke or mother bringeth out, which event is not to be in all other plants that have been grafted. Moreover, the seeds of yellow Roses have brought forth yellow Roses, such as the flours was from whence they were taken; which they should not do by any conjecturall reason, if that of themselves they were not a naturall kinde of Rose. Lastly, it were contrary to that true principle, Naturae sequitur femina quodqut suae: that is to say. Every seed and plant bringeth forth fruit like unto it selfe, both in shape and nature: but leaving that errour, I will proceed to the description: the yellow Rose hathe browne and prickly stalks or shoots, five or six cubits high, garnished with many leaves, like unto the Muske Rose, of an excellent sweet smell, and more pleasant than the leaves of the Eglantine: the floures come forth among the leaves, and at the top of the branches of a faire gold yellow colour: the thrums in the middle, are also yellow: which being gone, there follow such knops or heads as the other Roses do beare."

The double form is also mentioned by Gerard, who speaks of it as "a prime rariety about London, where it is kept in our chiefe gardens."

Parkinson in his Paradisus (1629, p 417) thus speaks of the single yellow Rose:—

"16. Rosa lutea simplex. The single yellow Rose. This single yellow Rose is planted rather for variety than any other good use. It often groweth to a good height, his stemme being great and wooddy, with few or no prickes upon the old wood, but with a number of small prickes like haires, thickeset, upon the younger branches, of a darke colour somewhat reddish, the barke of the young shootes being of a sad greene reddish colour: the leaves of this Rose bush are smaller, rounder pointed, of a paler greene colour yet finely snipt about the edges, and more in number, that is, seven or nine on a stalke or ribbe, than in any other kinde, except the double of the same kinde that followeth next: the flower is a small single Rose, consisting of five leaves, not so large as the single Spanish Muske Rose, but somewhat bigger then the Eglantine or Sweete Briar Rose, of a fine pale yellow colour, without any great sent (sic.) at all while it is fresh, but a little more, yet small and weake when it is dryed."

The same author in his Theatrum, published in 1640, speaks of the vermilion Rose of Austria, or Rosa sylvestris Austriaca, quoting, no doubt, from his Flemish predecessors.

Then we come to Philip Miller, who, in the eighth edition of his Gardener's Dictionary, speaks thus of the Austrian Rose. We quote the eighth edition as being the one in which the Linnean nomenclature for plants in general was first adopted, but, no doubt, the details relating to this species were also printed in the earlier editions. It will be observed that the plant he describes is the one with copper-coloured flowers, which he differentiates from the "single yellow Rose":

"The twelfth sort is commonly called the Austrian Rose. The stalks, branches, and leaves are like those of the last [the single yellow variety], but the leaves are rounder; the flowers are larger; the petals have deep indentures at their points; they are of a bright yellow within, and of a purplish copper colour on the outside; they are single, have no scent, and soon fall away. There is frequently a variety of this with yellow flowers upon one branch, and copper colour upon another. This sort of Rose loves an open free air and a northern aspect."

This yellow Rose has also been confounded with R. sulphurea and was by others considered to be a yellow form of R. gallica, but both these suggestions may, we think, in the face of the evidence here summarised, be dismissed as untrustworthy. M.T.M.