Mystery rose from Arlington House

Arlington House was once the home of Robert E. Lee. The rose garden at Arlington House was transformed into what has become Arlington National Cemetery. However, some roses do still grow there including Cristata and a few unidentified Gallicas (the plants are not labeled). These were all decimated by disease, especially rust and anthracnose, excepting this particular cultivar:

This rose is single and has only three leaflets throughout, which are leathery to the point of being brittle. These photos were taken last week so the blooms were long past but I did manage to find a couple still hanging on.

Does anyone recognize it?


Could be Rosa laevigata (also known as the Cherokee Rose)


I think Enrique is right, the hips that are just forming are distinctive and the leaves are that really healthy lighter green. (Based on the way mine grows, those hips won’t mature until winter.) I’m really surprised at Cherokee surviving in the D.C. area because they can get cold winters.

The other possibility is Mermaid, but I don’t grow or know Mermaid, but it can take colder temperatures. Is Mermaid fertile?

It does look like the photos of R. leavigata at HMF, and its having three leaflets fits as well. There are quite a few head-high, very dense specimens of it at Arlington House so it is well established. I noticed leavigata is listed at HMF as being in a private garden in Clinton, NY so maybe it is not as tender as the literature seems to indicate.

Sure looks like my (ouch) recollection of R.l. I was once foolish enough to collect hips off that beast since she is so healthy and vigorous. I have subsequently decided that anything with hips as nasty as hers isn’t a rose I wanted to try and work with, merits notwithstanding.

merits notwithstanding

It does have very attractive foliage and extreme disease resistance. It also has very few offspring, so there’s a lot of room for some intrepid breeder to make thier mark (no pain, no gain?)

Hi Don:

Definitely not Mermaid. I grow Mermaid and I think it will always be my favorite. There is no hint of pink in the blossoms. My last two gardeners, after seeing mine, recommended it to other clients who wanted a carefree SUPER fast growing rose to keep out intruders. Mine has never been sprayed, watered or fertilized and grows 20’ a year or more, but does not sucker. Recently had a tree company pull it off of the roof of my house. It grows up all the surrounding trees without any training and makes them look like they are in bloom, also. Also, Mermaid rarely sets seed. If I get two small hips a year out of several hundred flowers, it is a good crop.

Bob in New Orleans

Mermaid won’t set hip at all, and if it does… it wouldn’t have those spines.

The only other possibility I think it maybe is Rosa roxburghii normalis.

Not anything in the roxburghii line…leaves don’t match. Nor does the profile of the hip (and roxburghiis’ hip spines aren’t anywhere as sharp as laevigata’s.

Those hips will dry to a hard redbrown that my local rodent population leaves alone…Talk about a way to keep seeds undigested.

Absolutely a hybrid laevigata - but I’d definitely say it’s a hybrid, given the pale pink (peach-pink?) flowers and extra petals. I couldn’t hazard a guess at a name since the only ones I’m familiar with don’t look like that. Rosa roxburghii in any form is a very, very different creature.

Rosa roxburghii in any form is a very, very different creature.

My first thought was that it might be Martha Washington, a hybrid roxburghii that grows or grew at Mount Vernon. It would fit with the history of Arlington House. Ironically I was at Mount Vernon too but shamefully neglected to walk the garden. I have the email of the horticulturist at Tudor House, yet another of Washington’s descendent’s homes, maybe she can shed some light on it.

It could be a natural hybrid of laevigata. It looks very much like laevigata, but it has twice as many of the petals… and I guess it does have a peach tint to it. By the looks of it, there must be some other color in it because the spent flower has some reddish tones to, which to me, seems to show some sort of modern rose parentage.

Perhaps it’s a by chance offspring of laevigata and a tea rose???

It maybe worthwhile to propogate if you have permission… it’s historical value and intrigue may interest some people.

Hybrids with R. roxburghii normalis are very diverse, especially since it prefers foreign pollen. With many of my R rox seedlings, you would never guess it was the mother. The top of the hip looks like a R roxburghii hip, despite it lacking the spherical shape of the species.

Rosa laevigata hips do look like that, so I wouldn’t personally suspect R. roxburghii’s involvement for any particular reason.

This rose foliage and hips are typically laevigata. Without the flower I would say it is the species. So for me it is a form, a variation rather than an hybrid.

Roxburghii is quite different. IMO unrelated.

I concur with Pierre.

It might be Anemone: