My Hippie Rose

Okay, here’s my Weird Story for the Week…

Firstly, I’ve been using the wrong term. I thought the hairy undersides of the leaves of most of the ‘feral’ roses out here were “tomentose,” but now I’ve learned that the term I really want is “canescent.” Learned something new! Ergo, the day is not wasted! Now I can go back to sleep!


As I noted, canescence is very common in the feral roses here, and indeed, in many local plants. An adaptation to the dryness, no doubt, as canescent leaves hold morning moisture better, and dew in the morning might be the only natural moisture they get for weeks. All three of the feral roses that grow in the ditches here are canescent to some extent; there is a canescence (white hairs about maybe .3 mm (and probably much less)) on both sides of the young leaf and only on the underside as the leaf becomes fully mature. The Alba is the best; in the fall the tops of the leaves are maroon and the bottoms glitter in silver.

So I thought… wouldn’t it be fun to breed a hairy rose? Maybe I’m odd (well, yeah, I know I’m odd) but I have several roses I’m keeping not because they have pretty flowers per se (though they do) but because they’re just plain nice shrubs with interesting foliage. But then I thought, well, the genes are probably for Hairy/Not Hairy in the main so… eh. Never pursued it.

Then earlier this week, I was out in the garden checking the yearlings for bud bulges, and I noticed… 2007-9 had the absolutely softest leaves! They feet like suede, both new leaves and mature. It’s a rose with leaves you just want to pet… ahem, okay, that’s probably going too far but anyway.

I put one of the leaves under the microscope, and sure enough, not only were there white hairs on both sides of the leaf, but looked at least twice as long as those of other hairy roses!

Hunh! I may be on to something. Keeper no matter what the flower looks like, and nicknamed “The Hippie-Dippie Rose.” I have plans for this one!

Sounds very interesting. I can’t help but think of lambs ear when you describe this plant. It would be nice to have foliage like that but maybe it would only serve to trick some poor fool into getting to close just before it took a bite out of them with its thorns. I wonder if the hairs are a qualitative or quantitative trait?

Maybe it would be good for keeping the rose slugs off!

Fara, very interesting thoughts about drought tolerance. I have a Hulthemia from last year that has interesting “hairy” leaves.

Jim Sproul

Jim, might be interesting to get a photomicrograph of the leaves (most digital cameras, set atop the eyepiece of a microscope, work just fine). I mean to take one of the “Hippie-Dippie Rose” as soon as I remember to put batteries in the camera!

The most curious thing about this phenomena is that it’s only the feral damasks, albas and mosses in the ditches that are hairy. The actual native wild roses have no hair that I’ve noticed so far. Should go look more closely.

Adam, yes, I’m reminded of mullein whenever I see it. It’s not as hairy as that, but it would be much fun to have one that was! As far as qualitative or quantitative… good point. I’m not sure. I know that the hairs are longer (quite visibly so) but as far as being more numerous, I think they are but I really should do a direct comparison. Something else to put on my list.

Jon, keeping off rose slugs… hmmm! They would certainly make it more difficult for leaf-miners to do their mischief. Of course, they would also make it more difficult for ladybugs to get at spider mites and such. Hmmm…