Convertible Hybrids

The Book of Roses 1838
Mrs Gore (translation of Boitard)
Rosa Hibernica

The environs of Belfast produce an insignificant shrub, known as the Rosa Hibernica, for the discovery of which Mr. Templeton received a premium of fifty guineas from the Botanical Society of Dublin, as being a new indigenous plant; though since discovered to become the Rosa spinosissima in poor soils, and the Rosa canina in loamy land.

[According to Modern Roses V, R. x hibernica is a hexaploid with 42 chromosomes.]

English Botany 31, t. 2196
Rosa hibernica
Irish Rose


Discovered many years ago in the county of Down, about Belfast harbour, where it grows abundantly, by our often-mentioned friend John Templeton, Esq., who consequently found himself entitled to the reward of 50£ so liberally offered by the patrons of botany at Dublin for the discovery of a new Irish plant. We adopt the name by which Mr. Templeton has communicated wild specimens to us, for the singularity of the anecdote, and that we may not rob him or his countrymen of a particle of their honours. Otherwise we profess ourselves totally adverse to geographical specific names, except of the most comprehensive kinds, like borealis, eurpoæa, americana, &c.

This is easily known from every described Rose with a globose germen, by the above characters. The fruit indeed is slightly elongated upwards, so as to approach an ovate figure, but is always round and broad at the base. The stem is 6 feet high, upright, much branched and very prickly. Prickles scattered, slightly hooked or deflexed. Leaflets broad-ovate or roundish, smooth, their ribs and veins hairy at the back, as in R. collina and scabriuscula, t. 1895, 1896. Flower-stalks often solitary, often 2 or 3 together, smooth. Petals pale blush-coloured. Styles distinct at the base. It is remarkable for continuing in blossom from the early part of June till the middle of November. The scarlet fruit distinguishes this species from every variety of R. spinosissima, t.187.

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

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.

When I learned about Rosa Hibernica and began looking for other examples, I was struck by the strangeness of it. Since then I have understood that the phenomenon is not at all unusual, and does not necessarily involve hybrids. There are many plants of unrelated families that can live in water or on land. When on land, their forms and functions are appropriate to a terrestrial existence. In water, they more closely resemble aquatic plants than their own terrestrial forms.

O. F. Cook (Aspects of Kinetic Evolution, 1907) wrote "The analogy between locomotion and environmental adjustment has been overlooked, along with the probability that both methods of adjustment have been attained by the same evolutionary processes. They are finished products and not merely characters in the making."

In other words, when an animal is dissatisfied with its current position, it can change its environment by walking away. Plants, rooted in place, have the option of changing themselves into something else—something that doesn't need to get away. This is a startling adjustment of viewpoint, and suggests that the ability of Rosa Hibernica to switch between its presumed parental forms is not due to its presumed hybridity (it apparently breeds true), but to a well-developed capacity already present in the genus Rosa.

See also Michurin's hybrid of Pyrus elaeagnifolia.