DEAR IRIS: Rose: the national flower

ALETA MOTTET/Courtesy photo

Jefferson County Master Gardener Aleta Mottet snapped this photo of a rose in her garden just a few weeks ago.
ALETA MOTTET/Courtesy photo Jefferson County Master Gardener Aleta Mottet snapped this photo of a rose in her garden just a few weeks ago.

By Sandi Dimmitt, Jefferson County Master Gardener

The rose was proclaimed the national flower of the United States in 1986. England also claims the rose as their nation’s flower. Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia and New York have named the rose as their state flower.

There is actually fossil evidence in Oregon and Montana that the rose was growing 35 million years ago. However, it was not cultivated until 5,000 years ago.

Roses are one of the most famous and beloved plants in the world. They have been admired for centuries. Grown in China 5,000 years ago, roses have been esteemed ever since. They are considered the “flower of love.”

There are over 100 species of roses that fall into several categories: Cabbage, China, Damask, Moss, Garden, Tea, and Wild. Within those categories are thousands of variations.

Roses can thrive in tropical to below freezing climates, depending on the species. The size varies from the small tea rose to very tall climbers. Thorns of the rose are not actually thorns, but “prickles.” Prickles are small sickle shaped hooks for the purpose of catching on to whatever the rose is attempting to climb.

The fruit of the rose is called a rose hip. Certain species are extremely high in vitamin C. In fact some of the hips are the richest source of vitamin C in the world. Hips are also high in iron. For humans the hips are beneficial as a vitamin supplement. They are used to make jam and jelly and are also brewed for tea.

Medicinally, hips are used as an antidepressant, aphrodisiac and an antibacterial. The dogwood rose has antioxidant values that are higher than any other fruit.

Rose hips are given to Chinchillas as a treat. Chinchillas cannot produce their own vitamin C and can’t process most kinds of vitamin C other than rose hips.

Hips are also used with horses. The hips help to improve the condition of the horses coats and hoofs.

Roses have many meanings depending on their color. They represent love, honor, faith, beauty, balance, passion, wisdom, intrigue, devotion, sensuality and timelessness. They are a symbol of love, sympathy and sorrow.

The red rose symbolizes the ultimate emblem/gift to express true love. It carries with it intense feelings and is the flower of affection.

Pink roses have many meanings. They signify thanks, cheering up a friend, and can acknowledge a romantic occasion. The pink rose was the first to be cultivated and is common in the wild. It is connected with the feeling of love and gratitude.

A white rose represents reverent occasions such as honoring a friend or loved one. It can symbolize a new beginning or farewell. It has the distinction of purity and innocence. The white rose is now being used for weddings and in bridal bouquets.

Orange roses are a passionately intense way to say thanks, congratulations or I love you! They acknowledge passion, energy and fascination.

The yellow rose is used to toast friends, lift spirits and in general is a wish for well-being. It has an association with the sun and life-giving warmth. This rose has been used for ages to represent warm feelings of friendship and optimism. Yellow roses embody exuberance, sunny feelings, joy, friendship and caring.

Roses can also be dyed. The rose cannot produce a blue pigment. Purple roses are often dyed. The black rose symbolizes lost love and has associations with death and mourning.

Abraham Lincoln stated, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

NOTE: The Jefferson County Master Gardeners are providing a monthly column, named “Dear Iris,” for The Fairfield Ledger readers. “Dear Iris” is scheduled to be in the paper the first Wednesday of each month. The Master Gardeners will be providing information about horticulture and answering questions from readers. Questions can be sent to The Ledger at PO Box 110, Fairfield 52556, emailed to or dropped off at the office, 114 E. Broadway Ave. Include your name and contact information in case the Master Gardeners need more information.

For information about the Jefferson County Master Gardeners and how to become a Master Gardener, call the Jefferson County ISU Extension office at 472-4166.