Rosa arvensis breeding

Recently, when visiting on Vancouver Island I had my first look at Rosa arvensis. I was impressed! For using as a Climber/Ground Cover rose, it appears to be a tough shrub for a prostrate growing species with pliable canes.

Beginning about 1830, about 60 Ayshire cultivars were developed by crossing this species with various cultivars but only a few remain today. The flowers were single or double with white or pink flowers. Since then, there has been hardly any hybridizing work done with this species.

Perhaps the most commonly available Rosa arvensis hybrid is Rosa paulii (Rosa arvensis x R. rugosa), which has a spreading habit and is hardy to Zone 4. But it is one of the most vicious roses ever developed. A more relatively recent Rosa arvensis hybrid is Louis Lens’ ‘Green Snake’ (Rosa arvensis x R. wichuraiana) introduced in 1994. What a great combination of species! As a Ground Cover, it has single white flowers and only grows to a maximum of 30 cm. in height. I think that it would have excellent hybridizing possibilites. This cultivar is available from Heirloom.

Since Rosa arvensis has white flowers, it would be particularly useful for breeding yellow Climbers with pliable canes. For cold climates (like what I live in), I would likely want to combine Rosa laxa with a relatively hardy yellow cultivar or selection and use this breeding line with Rosa arvensis. One could use Rosa spinosissima yellow cultivars and develop hardier selections, but the results probably would be even more fearsome than Rosa paulii.


I’ve started to realize the potential that R. arvensis may have. I’ve had it for probably ten years and haven’t given it the attention it deserves. I’ve only tried a few crosses with it. And in spite of my neglect it has thrived.

Here’s a link to details of one hybrid I have gotten from R. arvensis.



R.Arvensis has been relatively extensively used

by the late Louis Lens (“Green snake” etc).

Its blood is to be find in many of his latests breedings.

Best wishes,


Lens passed away? How sad. I enjoyed his work and collecting a few of his creations.

I’m also very sad by this news-- Pierre, do you have anymore information such as when he passed? Thank you, Enrique


That was five years ago.

Best wishes,


Well, at least he’s with us in spirite… I have never read anything about Lens death, so I’ve assumed that he was still alive.

Going back to Arvensis… how is the fragrance of this rose? I’ve always wondered about that. It would be good to try it with some of my diploid roses such as R. foliolosa and R. blanda-- although these bloom pretty early so it’s really hard for me to cross them.


Apparently Rosa arvensis has a slight musk fragrance. It may be the Musk rose that is mentioned several times in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s interesting that Roy Shepherd in his book History of the Rose published in 1954 says that little work has been done hybridizing Rosa arvensis in America. Fifty years later vitually nothing more has been done. Sad. Maybe you, Tom and myself can radically change this situation.


Wasn’t arvensis incorporated into modern roses quite a long time ago? Many of the early hybrids were used to create more modern roses. Most recently I know it’s been postulated that the “myrhh” sent derived from Austin’s use of ‘Belle Isis’ derives from the Ayrshires?


It seems that I was just recently reading something along those lines.

It had something to do with DNA analysis showing that Rosa arvensis was involved in the parentage of quite a few influential roses … seems like it indicated some of the more popular Noisettes in addition to the Ayrshires as you mention? I think it may have been in “Climbing Roses of the World” by Charles Quest-Ritson, but I would have to go back to the library to check.


I checked an article that Percy Wright wrote in the 1980’s about using Rosa arvensis to breed a hardy, rambling rose. In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where he lived, he mentioned that it grew 20 feet long along the ground “like a pumpkin” and was hardy in his Zone 2 climate if it had snow cover. He also said that his plant grown from seeds that he obtained from Sweden was very thorny and that had to be taken into account when breeding a rambling type of rose. Perhaps a cross with a Rosa blanda hybrid like ‘Betty Bland’ or ‘Therese Bugnet’ might be a good start to counter that problem, while increasing hardiness to the progeny.

I ordered (and received) Porcelaine de Chine from Lens Roses some weeks ago. It is repeat flowering. According to Helpmefind it’s a cross between R. arvensis and R. chinensis minima.


(normally lurking)

I’m including a small portion of an article by Bayse which references Ayrshires and Myrrh scented roses. It elaborates a little of what Robert said of Austin’s myrrh scented roses derived from Belle Isis. But also leads back to the Ayrshires and R Arvensis. If anyone wants the complete article I can email it.


The American Rose Annual, (1989) 115-118

Myrrh-Scented Roses

Dr. Robert E. Basye

P.O. Box 494, Caldwell, TX 77836

"Belle Amour. Referred to on page 165, but I have still found no authority for the name. I was given this rose by Miss Lindsay, who had found it in an old convent at Elboeuf. In 1959 I saw it on the front of a cottage in Norfolk: an old established bush, which must have been there for many years. This is the only rose in the old groups with such

a salmon-tone to its pink colouring, and I suspect the influence of Ayrshire Splendens, an old rambler of the R. arvensis group, for not only is it precisely the same colour but has also the scent of myrrh; Ayrshire Splendens was also known as the Myrrh Scented Rose. This theory may seem far-fetched but it has a parallel in that the only other Old

Rose with a hint of salmon, Belle Isis, has been used as a parent by Mr.David Austin and one of the seedlings has a pronounced myrrh scent. This most lovely seedling we had the honour of naming after the late Mrs.Constance Spry. It is, I feel, a fitting tribute to one whose help and influence were so great in re-establishing the Old Roses in popular


The Ayrshire roses form a small group of R. arvensis hybrids which made their appearance in the early years of the nineteenth century and go bythe name of Ayrshire because many of them were produced in southern Scotland. Ayrshire Splendens, or just plain Splendens, may be the oldest

myrrh-scented rose in cultivation?unless it is antedated by the mystery rose, Belle Amour. Using Constance Spry, David Austin has bred a few other roses having the scent of myrrh.

If Rosa arvensis is in the pedigree of ‘Constance Spry’, it may explain the vigour and exceptional height of this cultivar. I’ve often wondered how these chracteristics came about from the parentage that is given.


I have done some crosses with R. arvensis in order to study pollen self-incompatibility and other genetic traits in a diploid rose.

It is really an amazing species that has special genetic potential to grow in the shade…


I see this is on old topic, but I am wondering, did anyone breed since 2004 with Rosa arvensis or with any Ayrshires?


That is a great question!!! I need to get a plant of the species or some hybrids. I heard Pascal give a talk in 2015 highlighting his progress with it. It is shade tolerant and also resistant to downy mildew!!

Hey David,
I’m planning to buy R. arvensis ‘Splendens’ to give it a try. This seems a very beautiful rose and hopefully also shade resistant. I have no idea of the ploidy levels though. R. arvensis is diploid.

Also, I’m thinking of combining moyesii ‘Highdownensis’ with arvensis, not sure yet wich one I’ll use as a mother plant. Probably try both, since moyesii ‘Highdownensis’ is pentaploid and when used as a mother plant the seedlings will probably resemble more like their mum than like their dad. Would moyesii also be shade tolerant? I can’t find much about that.

I believe there should be more species that are shade tolerant but that we are not aware of?

R. spithamea is more than shade tolerant; it needs to be in the shade to be happy. It only grows under trees on the north side of hills here. It hates full sun. It is completely healthy here. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to get a hybrid seedling from it.

I can confirm that arvensis Splendens is indeed very shade tolerant. I gave it almost no sun, and yet it performed very well. Now lately, at the end of august it started to grow very long runners. From all the roses I am currently growing, this rose is the most healthiest one.

I am though wondering if R. arvensis would also be hardy in zone 3 or 4. Anyone here on the forum who lives there and has a R. arvensis or arvensis splendens?