Meehan's Monthly 8: 65-66 (1898)

ROSA SETIGERA, Michaux—Styles cohering in a protruding column. Sterns climbing, armed with stout, nearly straight prickles, riot bristly: leaflets three to five, ovate, acute, sharply serrate, smooth or downy beneath; stalks and calyx glandular: flowers corymbed,—sepals pointed: petals deep rose color changing to white: fruit globular. (Gray's Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States. See also, Chapman's Flora of the Southern United States, and Wood's Class-Book of Botany.)

The Prairie Rose is a distinctively American rose. As a rule, roses are so closely related that it is difficult to define the species, and those from one section are often found closely related to others that may be in localities far apart. As often noted of late, species native to the Atlantic portion of the United States are often found repeated in the flora of Japan, or closely related to some Japanese species. Even in roses, there is one Japan species identical with a species in the Southern United States; but there is nothing very closely allied to the American Prairie Rose in the Asiatic flora, though Rosa hystrix, of the North of China, has some few points in common with it. In another respect, it differs from other American roses in having the styles united into a single column, as well shown by the artist in the upper flower of the picture. In other American roses, the styles are separate. In its remarkably sarmentose character, or, as it is popularly called, ''climbing character,"—it is different from other American roses, unless Rosa gymnocarpa, of the Pacific Coast, may prove somewhat of a competitor. The author has traveled through woods in British Columbia, along Indian trails, with this rose arching overhead, much as lie has found the Prairie Rose in the woods of Kentucky. Again, other American roses possess a grateful fragrance, while this species is characterized as odorless. The strong, sharp bristles or setae on the calyx and peduncle, are specially characteristic, and obtained for it the name of setigera, or the setae bearing rose Some of these supposed exclusive characteristics may possibly have to be revised as the plant becomes better known in its native localities. It is often classed as wholly scentless; but Torrey and Gray, in the "Flora of North America,'' properly qualifies this by the expression ''nearly odorless." Florists, or at least a leading florist, the late John Feast, of Baltimore, undertook to produce a double race, and three have become popular in gardens as "climbers." They are known as Prairie Queen, Baltimore Belle, and King of the Prairies. The last named of these is quite fragrant,—and the flowers on the plant from which the present plate was prepared had a pronounced delicate fragrance. As all species of plants are more closely investigated, however, variations are expected to a much greater extent than was formerly supposed,—and variations in fragrance may be looked for as well as in any other character. It is indeed possible, that the form growing in the woods and thickets of Kentucky and Tennessee, may be found distinct enough from the form peculiar to the prairies to merit distinction, and that the two names, Rosa setigera and Rosa rubifolia, as given by the early botanists, may not be as closely synonymous, as monographers now regard them.

It may be here remarked, as part of the history of this rose, that it was first made known and described by Michaux in his Flora of North America, published in 1803. Masson, a Scotch botanist, came to America for exploration purposes, but died, in Canada, in 1805. From some of the seeds he sent, it is said in 1800, the first Prairie roses in England were raised, and it was described in the Hortus Kewensis of 1811. It would thus appear that, though Masson was its first collector, the length of time before it was described and published, gives Michaux's name, setigera, priority; unless, as it may be, that Massons is really different from the plant of Michaux, a suggestion which any one who can compare the colored plate in Lindley's Rosarum Monographia, with the one given with this chapter, and who may remember the plant as growing in Kentucky woods, will think it at least possible. There is no record of the locality from which Masson obtained his seed, the general term "North America," being all that is given in the history of his plant; but Michaux describes his as from South Carolina, and the plant here illustrated is clearly the one intended by Michaux.

The drawing was made from a plant growing on the border of a wood in Philadelphia County, Penna., in which County occasional plants have been found by the author, apparently as indigenous as any plant could be but, singularly, not one has ever been found seed-bearing, the individual plants having evidently been there for many years—but unless it could be that, in some former time, fertile plants had been destroyed by cultivation, infertile plants alone could hardly travel, or long maintain themselves. A safe theory of their origin in these localities can scarcely be formulated.

Authors, generally, give the species a wide range. Wood speaks of it as The Michigan Rose," a native of Michigan and other States west and south. Torrey and Gray, "From Michigan to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia," and Dr. Gray, in his “Manual,'' adds Western New York, indigenous?" to the list. Chapman gives the more southern locations as "borders of swamps, Florida to South Carolina and westward." Chapman gives “June'' as the time of flowering in the South. In Pennsylvania, the so-called "June roses" are out of bloom before the Rosa setigera of Pennsylvania opens. The last week of June and the first week of July, is its season there. Beckwith's report on the Botany of his expedition notes its collection at Fort Washita, the only species observed on the exploration.

It is remarkable how sentiment rules the world. In no way has the rose ministered to the physical wants of man. But it has reached the highest place among flowers in the affections of mankind. Poetry would have been comparatively barren had the rose not been born. American roses have not entered materially into American poetry, the nation is too young to make any great mark in distinctively American literature. But our wild roses have now and then shared in giving the poet inspiration. Bryant, the great American poet of nature, in the ode The west wind," sings of the rose.

"Beneath the forest's skirt I rest,
Whose branching pines rise dark and high,
And hear the breezes of the West
Among the thread-like foliage sigh.

Sweet Zephyr! why that sound of woe?
Is not thy home among the flowers?
Do not the bright June roses blow,
To meet thy kiss at morning hours?

Though it is not the Prairie Rose, that skirts the pine forest, the Rosa lucida being probably the one in the poet's mind; but if one might substitute a forest of deciduous trees, the Prairie Rose might well serve in the picture the poet presents.

In the borders of woods, and in open places in Missouri where tall growing shrubs or bushes predominate, the Prairie Rose adds materially to the midsummer beauty of the woodland scenery. To the author's mind, it seems more at home in Missouri than in more Northern regions. It might as worthily claim title to the term ''Missouri Rose" as "Michigan Rose'' which is one of its familiar ones. Later in the season, following the floral beauty, the small red hips, as the fruit is termed, enliven the appearance of the woodlands and give a charm to the landscape which endures far into the winter season. The fruit is small in comparison with that of other species of rose, especially with the species of the Old World, familiar in gardens, and again suggests a resemblance to the rose of the Pacific Coast, Rosa gymnocarpa already referred to.

It is remarkable that the simple beauty of this wild rose of our country, has not been more appreciated by cultivators. The hybrids referred to, are beautiful enough in their way, as double flowers usually are-appreciated more perhaps because they are double and in this way regarded as an improvement on nature; but they can scarcely equal in attractiveness the wild simple form of nature. We may rarely find a plant in gardens however. A pleasing exception might have been seen a few years ago, in the gardens known as Dosoris, the Long Island residence of the late Mr. Charles A. Dana, where an arbor was constructed especially for it, and which constituted one of the special features of the beautiful grounds.

1. Opening flower, showing the column of united styles. 2. Older flower, changing to white.
3. Branch of a panicle with unopened buds. 4. Growing shoot for next season's flowering.