The rose plant is a woody perennial belonging to the genus Rosa, which is a member of the family Rosaceae. As of now, more than 100 species of roses have been discovered, while their cultivars number several thousand. Rose plants are found in different shapes and sizes. They can grow to be an upright shrub, a climbing plant or even found trailing with stems having sharp prickles. Even the blooms of rose differ in shape and size. Generally, the flowers are large and flashy and come in a variety of hues that range from white to different shades of yellow and red.
Majority of rose species are indigenous to Asia, while some of them have their origin in Europe, northwest Africa and North America. Various rose species, cultivars as well as hybrids are grown extensively for their attractiveness and usually also for their fragrance. The size of rose plants varies from being condensed, small roses to climbing plants that often grow up to a height of seven meters. Different rose species hybridize readily and this attribute of roses has been employed to develop a wide assortment of garden roses.
There is a saying that God bestowed roses with the luster of the most radiant metal together with the aroma of the best sweet-smelling perfumes. There is no doubt that the history of roses is most complicated, as a solitary genus Rosa comprises numerous species that are spread all over the globe.
It is interesting to note that roses have a history that is much longer compared to the humans. It is believed that the first rose appeared on this planet no less that 12 million years back. According to some people, they were present on the earth about 20 million years ago! However, it is worth mentioning here that the fossils of roses discovered so far were strictly not of the roses we know today. Nevertheless, it has been ascertained that genus Rosa existed naturally all over the Northern Hemispheres. Estimates by botanists suggest that about 100 to 200 rose species grew naturally in places having tropical and temperate climatic conditions in Asia, Europe, North America as well as North Africa.
Explorers who traveled to different regions of the world helped in distributing various rose species from one part of the globe to another. Botanists, who worked with Rosa species, also contributed to the spread of rose across the world. Various people across the globe have studied roses carefully, rendered them artistically, and cultivated them passionately. In addition, botanists and gardeners have crossed one species of Rosa with another with a view to produce new cultivars that possess the beautiful and aromatic attributes of the parent plants that are admired by people all over the world. In fact, the beauty and aroma of roses have been appreciated by several generations and aficionados in all eras. There are innumerable rose species, which have been named depending on their place of origin, places reputed for cultivating them and even according to their hybridization. Their number is so vast that even most proficient experts often find it difficult to establish their classifications appropriately.
It is worth mentioning here that rose bushes producing large flowers are some of the most magnificent roses measuring anything between 3 inches and 5 inches (9 cm and 13 cm) across. Generally, these flowers are also highly aromatic. Such rose bushes grow up to a height of 24 inches (60 cm) to 60 inches (150 cm). They are often referred to as Hybrid teas when one stem produces a solitary flower, or called Grandiflora when each stem bears up to 5 or 6 blooms. These roses have been developed from plants having their origin in China from where they were brought sometime during the 19th century. They are well-known for their flowers that have aromas akin to tea.
Usually, the blooms of clustered rose bushes comprise about 5 to 6, occasionally even as many as 12, smaller roses. Each small rose measures roughly 1.5 inches (4 cm) to 3.5 inches (9 cm) across and appears as inflorescences. Each of these roses may comprise of several petals or just five petals encircling a stamen. The simple eglantines, for instance dog-roses or wild roses, are wonderful examples of this variety of roses.
During summer, these inflorescences comprise flower clusters that completely wrap the shrubs in their beautiful colors. However, it is unfortunate that none of these roses actually emit significant aroma. This is really disheartening for rose aficionados who are fond of fragrance. This rose group comprises flowers that were earlier known as Polyanthas and Floribundas. In fact, the variety distinguished as Polyanthas presents the most compact inflorescences that comprise somewhat smaller roses.
Roses are popular as ornamental plants that are cultivated in the gardens and at times indoors too for their beautiful flowers. On various occasions, roses are also commercially used to make perfumes and also as a commercial crop to harvest cut flowers. Some people use rose in the form of landscape plants – growing them as hedges or for other utility purposes like stabilize slopes and game cover. In addition, sometimes they are also used for minor therapeutic purposes.
Most of the ornamental rose varieties that we see today are actually hybrids that have been developed by crossing exotic species and cultivars for their majestic flowers. Only a few roses have been bred as well as grown for their beautiful or aromatic foliage. These varieties include Rosa rubiginosa and Rosa glauca. On the other hand, some roses like Rosa sericea have unusually ornamental thorns. Then again Rosa moyesii and some others are grown for their attractive fruits.
People have been cultivating ornamental roses for thousands of years. In fact, available documents show that ornamental roses were cultivated since 500 B.C. They were cultivated in various places including the nations in the Mediterranean region, China and Persia. Over the years, several thousand rose cultivars and hybrids have been crossed as well as selected for growing as flowering plants in gardens across the globe. Most of these rose varieties are double-flowered and either all or several of their stamens have transformed into extra petals.
It is interesting to note that the French Empress Josephine supported the breeding of roses in her gardens located in Malmaison in the 19th century. As early as 1840, it was possible to develop more than a thousand dissimilar cultivars and varieties of roses when the Loddiges nursery planted a rosarium for the Abney Park Cemetery – one of the initial garden cemeteries and arboretums developed in England during the Victorian age.
In fact, roses are a favorite crop for domestic as well as commercial cut flowers. Usually, they involve harvesting and cutting of roses when they are in the stage of flowering buds. Subsequently, they are preserved in refrigerators till they are all set for display at places where they are sold to customers.
In places having temperate climatic conditions, people often grow cut roses in glasshouses, while it is possible to cultivate them under cover in warmer countries with a view to protect the blooms from damages caused by weather as well as pests. When grown in such conditions, it enables the cultivators to undertake disease control methods more effectively. A good quantity of roses is cultivated in some countries having tropical climatic conditions. These roses are harvested and exported by air to different markets all over the world.
Rose blooms are also used to make rose perfumes. Rose oil or the attar of rose, which is basically a blend of volatile essential oils that are obtained by a process called steam distilling crushed rose petals, are used to make rose perfumes. Rose water, which is used for culinary purposes, is a spin-off of this process. In addition, rose water is also used in the form of a medicine, in cosmetics as well as religious ceremonies. The process involved in making rose oil or attar of rose was invented in Persia and later the technique spread to the eastern European countries via Arabia and India. People in Iran, Bulgaria and Germany use damask roses (scientific name Rosa x damascena “Trigintipetala”). In other regions of the world, people usually used the variety named Rosa x centifolia to make rose oils.
Rose oil is more or less transparent and has a light yellow or yellowish-grey color. The darker oil is produced by extracting a solvent called “Rose Absolute” using hexane. The color of this oil varies from deep yellow to orange. The weight of rose oil is roughly 3/1000 to 6/1000 of the flowers’ weight. For instance, approximately 2,000 rose flowers yield just one gram of rose oil or attar of rose.
The oil extracted from rose is called attar of rose and it comprises rose camphor and aromatic alcohols like geraniol and l-citronellol. Rose camphor is basically a fragrance-free solid made up of alkanes, which are isolated from rose oil. Similarly, rose oil also contains β-damascenone, which contributes to its aroma.
Sometimes, rose hips are used to make jelly, jam and marmalade. In addition, they are also added to soups or brewed to prepare a tea, which has significant levels of vitamin C. Rose hips are also used to make rose hip syrup after they are pressed and filtered. Rose hip oil is used in several skin care products as well as cosmetics.
Occasionally, the petals as well as flower buds of rose are used to add essence to standard tea. Alternatively, they are also blended with herbs to prepare various types of herbal teas.
People in France use rose syrup in various ways. Usually, they make rose syrup from a substance extracted from the petals of rose. In the United States, people use the French rose syrup to make rose marshmallows and scones. People in India and neighbouring countries use rose to make a popular concentrated squash called Rooh Afza. Roses are also used to prepare ice cream and kulfi having the flavor of rose.
In addition to using roses as a flavoring agent to add their aroma to foods, people also use these flowers in the form of a food. Although rare, rose petals are also used to make candies. In English confectionery, rose creams, which are basically fondants having rose flavour and covered in chocolate that are usually dressed with crystallized rose petals, are a traditional item. These creams are sold by several confectioners in England.
The rose hip, especially from the species called Rosa canina, has been used as a vitamin C source, albeit it provides an insignificant amount of the nutrient. In addition, the fruits of several species of rose enclose considerable levels of different vitamins and, hence, they have been utilized in the form of food supplements. Moreover, herbal as well as folk medicines have employed several rose species. The species name Rosa chinensis has a long history of being used in Chinese Traditional Medicine. This rose species as well as many others have been employed to treat stomach disorders. Currently, scientists are studying the potential use of rose in treating cancerous growths.