The American Rose Annual, 29: 76-87, (1944)
Rosa Suffulta as a Parent
Percy H. Wright

Moose Range, Saskatchewan, Canada

OF ONE thing in rose breeding I am thoroughly convinced, which is that if we want new characters in domesticated roses, we must bring in new species. This is not to say that further improvement is impossible by reassembling the old genes, but that the results thereby to be achieved are much smaller in relation to the effort expended. That is like reworking an old Phoenician mine, now three miles under the sea. But every new species is a new vein of ore!

The two species that to me appear to be the most promising are Rosa suffulta, six-inch, extremely drought-resistant denizen of the northern North American plains, and R. nitida, the dwarf, shiny-leafed rose of the New England States and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. My experiments with Nitida are too recent to say much more than that it appears to be able to transmit extraordinarily attractive foliage, with wonderful autumn coloration especially, and petal color of good tone, and unusually non-fading. My experiments with Suffulta are now eight years old, and though various delays have prevented me from doing much more than see intriguing possibilities from the theft of its genes, I do have a number of hybrids of which readers of the American Rose Annual may like to hear.

Three natural doubles of the species have been picked up and to some extent propagated. The first is the Woodrow rose, from Woodrow in southwestern Saskatchewan; the second, unnamed, was found near Penzance in central Saskatchewan; and the third, Allan, was discovered near the North Dakota border by Agricultural Representative John Allan of North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Of these, the first, already being used by several U. S. rose breeders, is the most double and has the least pollen. The second I had, but have lost, and memory does not permit me to give a very exact description of it. I believe it to be semi-double and to have plenty of pollen. The last is sufficiently double, and has an abundance of pollen, pollen that I have found to be fertile and active. This variety may prove to be the most valuable of all to the breeder.

The earliest hybrid I made was produced by putting pollen of the single Suffulta on the pistils of the Rugosa Hybrid, Hansa, an extremely hardy and vigorous variety not well liked except where it is about the only choice in everblooming roses, on account of its rather violet color. From this cross numerous seeds are easily got, fifty to a hundred per hip, and nearly every flower catches. From my first cross I got Hansette, about intermediate between the two parents, but tending to be more like Hansa when thriving and when a full grown plant, and more like the wild parent when suffering from drought or just getting a start. The flower is small, red without violet tones, and possessing thirteen petals. It is fully fertile both ways, though its mother is probably a diploid and its sire is a tetraploid. Unfortunately it is as susceptible as is Hansa to root galls. It attains about three feet, is broad and bushy, and blooms earlier in the spring than either parent. It blooms but once, each parent having suppressed the type of everblooming shown by the other.

Next came two sister sorts of more complex ancestry. They were produced by putting pollen of Woodrow on a Hansa-Macouni cross of my own called Mary, not unlike Dr. N. E. Hansen's Tetonkaha. This makes them one-half Suffulta, one quarter Macouni, one-eighth Rugosa, and one-eighth Hybrid Tea, assuming that Hansa is a Rugosa-Hybrid Tea cross.

The more important of the pair was dubbed Ariel, a singularly appropriate name on account of the charmingly airy effect of the delicate, button-hole blossoms. I understand that according to the rules it will have to be renamed, which is a pity. The plant shows the Rugosa influence somewhat, but grows erect, about three-and-a-half feet tall, has flowers of the type of Woodrow but a deep pink approaching red, also clear of all violet tones. The other, Felicity, is of the same size and attractiveness, but is a clear pink. The plant is somewhat less vigorous, as erect as its sister, but almost thornless. Both are fertile both ways, and their pollen has already produced abundant offspring. Felicity was somewhat set back by winter injury in the terrific winter of 1942-43, with its sustained cold and its low of -67 degrees.

The fourth hybrid, Little Betty, I have no exact record of, but the evidences of the plant indicate that it is either Betty Bland by single Suffulta or Blanda by Woodrow. It grows about 3 1/2 feet high, is double, pale pink, with a small, neat flower. It is extremely prolific and has welcomed the pollen of every rose I have given it, having returned many seeds even to the pollen of Austrian Copper and Persian Yellow. It was 100 per cent hardy in the past winter, though at the corner of the house, almost free of snow and exposed to all the winds that blew. This summer I discovered that it would layer readily.

In the summer of 1942 I put pollen of Ariel upon the pistils of Little Betty, thus giving the genes of Suffulta a chance to come together again from both sides of the house, and accidentally restoring the type of everblooming of Suffulta, previously suppressed. From this pollination, about twenty seeds germinated in the spring of 1943, of which one bloomed when still in the seed box and less than a month old, and four others bloomed in the fall, from August 15 to freeze-up. All were double, and a medium pink. The flowers were wee, necessarily, since they came on plants less than three inches high and with only three or four tiny leaves. Next year I expect them to be as large as the flowers of Woodrow.

To look at these plants, blooming when a teacup would accommodate each, one would think that they had in them the blood of Rouletti. Doubtless they are reversions to the Suffulta ancestor and a cytological examination would show them to be tetraploids. I regard them as new varieties of Suffulta. As such, with Woodrow and Allan, they may replace Polyanthas in cold climates, and come to be used freely as border and edging roses. As with Woodrow, natural multiplication will undoubtedly be too slow to wait for, and budding the only way to obtain new plants quickly.

As a group, the Suffulta hybrids tend to have small flowers when double, of better size when single, all perfectly clear of blue. The leaves, usually small, narrow and sparse, are of a bluish cast. The plants are medium to very dwarf, fertile and prolific, and hardy to fifty degrees below zero or lower. Doubtless they are also extremely drought-resistant, a feature for which I cannot test them in this forest area which is now my home. Probably a cross with the thornless Multiflora would give a rose suitable for budding tame roses upon to produce plants adapted to the prairies of both Canada and the U.S.A.

CybeRose note: The little species Wright used was Rosa alcea Greene. Erlanson (1938) regarded this as a dwarf ecotype of R. arkansana Porter.

Rosa suffulta Greene was from the southern Rocky Mountains. R. pratincola was named by Greene in 1899. He later learned that the name had already been assigned to a European species by A. Braun in 1888. Greene then substituted the name R. heliophila for the more common species of the grassy plains.