Plants in Focus #2
Since spring is upon us and that roses will be taking centre stage very soon, I thought I would put the spotlight on this quite interesting rose. It has some very interesting attributes and if you don’t like prickles look away very soon. Another reason I thought we would look at this beauty is because I see its starting to flower.
Rosa omeiensis pteracantha
A most interesting rose that hails from South western and central China in the provinces of Gansu, Guizhou, Hubei, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang and Yunnan. It grows in Abies forests, thickets, scrub, pasture, hillsides and slopes at altitudes between 700-4000m. It is a shrub that can grow to 4m tall, in cultivation it normally gets to 2-3m tall. Shrub is usually very spiny and this trait gives it a common name of ‘Winged thorn Rose’. The thorns on new growth are quite spectacular in the sense they are bright red and somewhat translucent when the sun shines through them. As they age they harden and turn brown. They can be quite large as you will see in the photo’s below.
Notice above that not only does this rose have huge prickles it also has small spines. Note also the leaves which can be 3-6cm long and also have 5-13 leaflets with a serrated margin. This one has 9 leaflets. These leaves give this rose a ferny appearance as well and they are deciduous, giving a nice yellow/red colour in Autumn. See below more examples of the prickles and note their size!
Here’s one with my fingers so you can compare their size.
The Flowers are unusual as well because they only have 4 petals and this is the only rose known for this. Flowers are white and are 2.5-3.5cm in diameter. This rose flowers early in spring and I find its normally the first of my roses to come into flower and it can be fleeting. The flowers are followed by small round hips which are red.
There are 4 different forms of this rose which are R. omeiensis f. omeiensis, R. omeiensis f. glandulosa, R. omeiensis f. paucijuga and of course R. omeiensis f. pteracantha which was discovered by Rehder and E.H.Wilson in 1915. I tried to find out about the name of this rose with not much sucess but what I think I could deduce is that ‘pter’ or ‘ptera’ is something that is winged and in this case it definetily has large thorns that look a bit like wings. Part of omeiensis could be where this rose is found at Mount Emei(omei) in the province of Sichuan. Mt Emei sits at the western end of the Sichuan basin and stands at 3099m near the town of Emeishan City. There have been roughly 200 plant species from various plant families described from Mt Emei. The root bark from this rose is used for tanning, the bark contains about 16% tannin. The hips are also sweet and edible and used medicinally and to ferment wine as well.
If you have the room, this is an outstanding rose to have as a focal/talking point in the garden. In my experience with this rose it is best given plenty of room and doesn’t seem to like being crowded. Best left unpruned and only get rid of deadwood as needed. Make sure you use gloves if you are removing any deadwood or working near it or you will regret it. A jumper helps as well! Not really worth growing just for the flowers although they are unique, the standout feature of this rose is its Thorns.
and watch those fingers!