Rosa sericea ptericantha, species first identified 1890, China.
Here is one of the most unusual and spectacular species roses I know! Introduced into commerce in 1890, this is a fairly tender Chinese species. I am not certain how much cold it will tolerate, but I have experience growing it in zone 5b, and it barely survives each winter, with a great deal of dieback.
This is a shrub for large open spaces, as it will grow to 10 feet tall, and about 6 feet wide. It makes a very spectacular freestanding shrub. The single white blooms are small and fleeting during its brief bloom period in early spring, but that is not what it is grown for. The intense large red thorns are its main attraction, as you can see here. As a plant matures, these thorns can become up to 2" tall, and standing out over 1" from the canes. They are a brilliant ruby red and semi transparent until late in the season, when they dull to brown. In early morning or late afternoon light they resemble stained glass lit from behind!
As you can also see from the photos, the foliage is very different from most roses. It is fine and fernlike, each leaf being no more than 3" long, and finely divided into many leaflets. The effect is one of striking contrast between the dramatic thorns and the soft looking foliage. As far as I know, this species is completely free of the usual leaf diseases. If you live in a mild enough climate, it will grow well with very little attention. An open, airy location seems to be best, and it will tolerate many soil types.
Click here to see another view of this rose and its thorns.
merit rating: 8.2
Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 2006