A hip maturity database?

The end of the pollination season has made me think a bit about the difficulty of choosing parents and timing crosses in a short-season climate. The window of opportunity is particularly narrow here, but of course in any temperate region there must be a cutoff for pollinating any rose. What I have wondered about the most is whether it would be helpful to other people to have some kind of interactive online database where we could anonymously upload information about the number of days it took hips from various roses to mature. I would like to imagine that this could be fairly simple, without knowing much about the nuts and bolts of it, and at least for me would make an incredibly useful tool. My initial idea is that for each rose variety there could be an unlimited number of slots for the numbers to be displayed (each number representing a single hip). Maybe it could even generate an average number, too, for fast information seekers. The thought of looking to HelpMeFind to do this did cross my mind, but if it could reside with the RHA instead, its long-term availability might be more certain. Does anyone else think this might be a good thing, or even feasible?

Perhaps it would work, but I would guess that hip ripening is dependent on degree days, not just time. (Most fruit ripening is) So data in terms of number of days wouldn’t translate exactly from one climate to another, or even exactly from one year to another. It might be useful as a general guide though.


You’re right, of course… and I also agree that its usefulness might out-weigh the problems caused by missing information. Then again, maybe it would be possible to include some simple geographic or climatic qualifier to make better sense of the data. In either case I have to believe it would be a great improvement over flying blind, which pretty well describes my confidence in what I’m doing most of the time! Thanks very much for your input -


Hi Stefan:

I like your idea. Certainly there are general trends that you see with particular rose varieties. I have always said that roses are like apples - both in hip color (red, yellow and green), and in maturing of fruit (early and late).

Also, I have seen that roses tend to pass on the length of maturity of their fruit to their progeny.

One of our seedling varieties was covered with orange hips this morning (pollinations in April). It is our earliest. There are other varieties that are always late - ‘Sexy Rexy’ and a ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ X ‘Roller Coaster’ seedling.

Information on hip maturity would be most important for northern rose breeders. Here in Southern California, we just wait for the late hips to ripen without any concerns for frost.

Jim Sproul

That’s a great way of looking at them; they do resemble apples in some interesting ways. Maybe a similar system of rating maturity would make life easier, using values like very early, early, mid, late, very late, with corresponding ranges of days.

I have one rose that bloomed in late May starting to color up its fruit already, but that’s partly because I got a jump on it using a poly greenhouse. Our main bloom season tends to occur in late June through July, so the thought of having to stop by mid-July in order to prevent a run-in with frost really makes me cringe. This year, I willfully ignored that wisdom - I’d rather try my hand at “rooting” stems with hips to extend the breeding season than accept such severe limitations. I would love the freedom of a warm climate for breeding and I’m jealous(!), but I believe I would miss the fun of breeding and testing for severe climatic conditions, too. What’s a boy to do?


Hi Gang,

Some great comments from all. Hip ripening sure depends where we live so it would depend on a lot of us to contribute, based on our zone, to make it a useful tool. Another thing that would be great in a data base would be the ploidy. Often we see on the forum where someone asks about a specific variety. It would be nice if were stored somewhere once it has been determined. What we find in the MR series is rather sparse, thus the method used by most hybridizers is “give it a try and see if it works”. Nothing wrong with that approach I suppose, but it might save a year or so in the process if we knew beforehand.

Maturity to be defined as when maximum hip color is achieved? When the hip fruit becomes mushy? When the abscission layer forms and breaks?

And then there are roses whose hips stay in full color through winter if they drop and are buried in mulch (Dainty Bess is one that seems to produce hips that overwinter with no softening. The Morocco Rose is another.)

I plan to put a mailbox in the species bed ( quite a ways from the house) next spring to make it easier to record bloom time, hip times and when rebloom happens.

In my area the first peak of bloom is the third week in June and the first frost is usually between mid September and the first week in October. To insure that my crosses would ripen sufficiently through the years, I have been particularly concerned with making my crosses early. Last year I hybridized through the month of July and recorded the dates of crossing. What resulted, even though the rate of germination was poor for all the crosses, was a significant amount of germination from the the crosses made in the last week of July.

This occurrence was not a complete surprise to me since many year’s ago I found that hips may take less than three months to ripen. What happened was that a branch from the rose ‘Canarybird’ died in late July and I was able to successfully germinate the seed from the hips that I removed from this branch. In all likelihood the hips were less than two months old! Of course, I realized that seed from this rose might be an exception. Unfortunately, it took me about 30 years to prove otherwise. Last year I found that the seed that germinated from crosses made in the last week in July was collected BEFORE the second week of October.

I suspect that rose seed matures before the hips turn color and that the seed goes into a deeper dormancy the longer it stays on the plant. To say it another way, seed removed and stratified before the hips turns color may germinate more easily that seed left to fully ripen in the hip.

Could it be that we are too concerned about hips being fully ripe?

My understanding is that immature seeds will germinate easily but will have a greater number of problems such as - producing a stunted plant or early seedling death for no apparent reason.

Bill, do you mean that seeds from late pollinations collected after the second week of October gave no germinations, or had you harvested them all before that point? It would have been my policy to leave them on as long as possible, so this is certainly food for thought. As I recall, our temperatures last October weren’t devastatingly cold (in the low to mid 20s Fahrenheit for the very coldest overnight lows) but the duration of very cool temperatures both day and night didn’t seem at all conducive to ripening. That could be part of the reason my own late pollinations didn’t germinate last year; I left them on until I felt I could no longer shield them from the cold (once it was projected to sink below about 23 degrees, that is). I had germinations from hips sufficiently ripe in late September, but I attributed their success to maturity rather than their early harvest. Now I may have to rethink that. I’ve often wondered if rose seeds weren’t mature before the hips turned color (and if so, precisely when), but lack the volume of disposable hips to test ideas like that!