Confusion on Rosa chinensis

Is this really a species rose, or the old name for Old Blush or Slater’s Crimson? I am very often confused about this because I recall hearing that the species form of the China Rose is extinct or lost, and yet I still find the name still being used.

And then I recall in one of David Austin’s books about them possibly re-discovering some where in the wild in China and that it was a huge climber with bright unfading red flowers.

And then I recall it was rediscovered in Bermuda and it seems it is different because that form wasn’t climbing…

So does R. chinensis exist or is this a misnomer for Old Blush and Slater’s Crimson or every china rose out there?

first of all, I want to say that this is a great question. I think most people agree that the 4 stud chinas (Slater’s Crimson China, Parson’s Pink China, Hume’s Blush Tea-scented China and Park’s Yellow Tea-scented China) are not true species but ancient cultivars that have been collected and passed on through the generations by the Chinese. They were selected because of there flower qualities and continuity of bloom. No one would argue with the fact that they probably have had more influence on the modern roses than any other group. ‘Hybrid chinas’ refer to this group and it’s descendants. The Tea-scented roses (Rosa x odorata) would be some kind of hybrid between Rosa chinensis and Rosa Gigantea.

A photo of Rosa chinensis var. spontanea taken in the wild is to be found in Roger Phillips’ and Martyn Rix’s book ‘The Quest For The Rose’. Why this climbing species has avoided cultivation is probably in the fact that it is in a remote location and only once flowering. Often dwarfism in roses will cause a once flowering giant to become a repeat flowering shorty (as in R. multiflora). This is what I suspect might have happened in the creation of the repeat stud chinas.

That Bermuda rose may be just another descendant of Rosa chinensis or The China Studs.

Mark Disero, Brantford Ontario Canada

I agree with Mark : the repeat-flowering may have

appeared with a mutation from a climber to a bush.

I suspect the Portland rose is the same kind of

mutation from a taller shrub.

Ivan Louette suspects there may be R.Multiflora

cathayensis in the china roses.

And note the chinas can vary greatly, like the Damasks -which are complex hybrids-…

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.


Initially chinensis was for the original country not a botanical name and Chinas is for the group. Same as bengalensis, Bengals are for found in India.

Much later a species was found and named chinensis spontanea with flowers color not unlike Mutabilis (a china found in Italy…!) and with features not found in the four studs such as very, very large seeds. This species was only lately collected and brought back by among others Martin & Rix.

I got seeds from a botanical garden that did not germinate.

The Bermudas are obviously closely derived seedlings from China’s and/or early Teas.

The four studs is a quite heterogen hybrid group with two once bloomers and two recurent ones: emerging part of a large group of rose vars derived from some known species such as chinensis, gigantea and others not readily identified (some unknown?).

I have grown all the available chinas and do not see the multiflora influence nor the other known large leaved red flowered species also proposed.

I.e. Slater’s that is little bigger than miniature is much smaller than mutiflora in leaf size.

My two cents.

Originally introduced in 1790, it was ‘Slater’s Crimson China’, (Rosa chinensis ‘Semperflorens’), that was found in Belfield in Bermuda and reintroduced to Europe in 1956.