Taming The wild Ones

Much have been written about breeding species roses into garden roses. The objectives of course is to eliminate the diseases garden roses and thus curtail the need for remedial spraying of harmful chemicals.
Let me first say, I’m not a trained scientist. I’m hoping those who are trained in the science of plant breeding would use this opportunity to educate us and bring us along.
If someone had tell me twenty years ago it were possible to cross wild roses growing along the country roads with garden roses I would have thought them nuts.

In 2008 I crossed Carefree Beauty with a wild rose growing on the roadside near my home.
This wild rose has now been identified by Olsen and Schowalter as Rosa Arkansana. It thrives on the gravel limestone shoulders of the country roads surrounding Winnipeg.
These roses are tough, they grow in such infertile and inhospitable environment. Surviving mowing in summer and road salt and temperatures of -40 Celsius in winter.
The other rose I worked with is rosa Acicularis. I Found this plant growing in one of the non-discript country roads north of Winnipeg.

With only one hundred growing days. It’s difficult to make quick progress in this frozen hinterland.
The following pictures hopefully explain my efforts.

More species crosses.

Bringing the species into winter hardy yellows.
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Those are some nice results, Charles!

Good work, Charles. I’ve always liked the idea of combining North American and European/Asian species, for example.

Maybe I’ll just expand on the importance of using species in a breeding program. Yes, some can be important for improving disease resistance. Example, Rosa wichurana. But on the Canadian Prairies, of course, the three native species (Rosa acicularis, R. woodsii and R. arkansana) are the most useful for increasing cold hardiness. Just a reminder because I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you already know. These species will actually generally decrease disease resistance in a breeding program with modern roses. It’s probably best to first combine them with a more disease resistant species like Rosa rugosa and then use these hybrids in a breeding program.

Of great importance using rose species in a breeding program is producing new types, which is mainly characterized by the shrub form. I think this is severely neglected by breeders (I know; I’m likely repeating myself in earlier posts on this subject). This is especially important for roses used for residential and park/green space landscaping. I’ve always said the most beautiful roses ever developed are the Hybrid Musk cultivars (‘Belinda’, for example) showing the influence of Rosa multiflora in their pedigrees. The Louis Lens Rosa multiflora hybrids are comparable in beauty to these Hybrid Musk cultivars.

Species can also potentially add root system mass (Rosa palustris, for example), vigour, flower colour and fragrance, and stem and foliage colour in breeding programs. Regarding the latter characteristic, Rosa glauca has been negelcted in this respect. If combined first with Rosa fedtschenkoana, for example, and used in a breeding program with modern roses this might produce a wide variety of grey and red colours in the progeny’s foliage, which would be a beautiful contrast to the flowers. But this would be a long term breeding project, likely taking a minimum of three generations of work to attain any positive results.

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Paul, thanks for your comments on native northern species and disease resistance. You may have answered a question I had pondered about the dearth of hybrids (as found on HMF) of these species, and why…

I’m wondering which (relatively underused) species folks here feel might lend the most to disease-resistance… That has certainly been a large part of my thinking in turning more to species. (I had assumed too that native species might offer resistance to native strains of disease.)

And I too have wondered about concentrating on lines of glauca, fedtschenkoana, and/or souliana crosses for cooler colored foliage. I think such could be quite attractive, generally harmonious with, and a good backdrop for nearly any flower color.

Philip, I’m sold on R. carolina/virginiana for its glossy foliage that seems to integrate well with modern roses and increase health. The species themselves also seem quite hardy in my Zone 3 location, although not hardy to the very tip like R. acicularis and others.

Chuck, your local R. arkansana pic is similar to those posted in another recent thread in regards to something like stippling and a darker line through the center of the petals.

I’m leery of R. glauca because of its odd genetics and horrid blackspot susceptibility.

This year R. nitida was my baby. I love the glossy foliage and glowing fall color of my specimen (and some of its seedlings). I hope that since its a diploid it will be easier to regain the reblooming characteristic after crossing it with modern rebloomers. Will the likely triploid seedlings have the same tendency towards sterility as rugosa x modern crosses? We will see.

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More pictures.
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Thanks to everyone for your insightful comments. Please keep them coming.
I’ll be coming back to this subject from time to time.
One of the things I’m observing as I process these F1 hybrid seeds is the low seed set.
Paul, in a recent thread, you wondered why Henry Marshall didn’t use yellow Floribundas and Hybrid Teas in his crosses.
Sterility in the F1 crosses maybe a reason why he didn’t make much progress.

I have a pink Rio Samba (unknown ploidy) x Explorer hybrid (tetraploid) cross made in 2004. This plant stands six feet tall, Disease free, covered in blooms all summer. Produces copious amounts of seeds and green to the tip in spring.
I thought this was going to be a game changer. The seeds are difficult to germinate, and the pollen produces few seeds when used.

This seems to be an appropriate place to add some notes on Rosa species, and the nature of species in general.

First, I have notes on E. H. “Chinese” Wilson’s book, A Naturalist in Western China, with vasculum, camera, and gun (1913) vol. 1. I copied all his mentions of roses in his journey, and some adjacent text to provide context. For instance,

18 The Flora of Ichang
Rose bushes abound everywhere, and in April perhaps afford the greatest show of any one kind of flower. Rosa laevigata and R. microcarpa are more common in fully exposed places. Rosa multiflora, R. moschata, and R. Banksiae are particularly abundant on the cliffs and crags of the glens and gorges, though by no means confined thereto.
Wilson: Roses in Western China (1913)

Hiesey (Cohesion of Traits,1965) worked with Achillea, Potentilla and Mimulus crosses and hybrids, raising the offspring in different environments.

  1. The inheritance of characters distinguishing ecological races is mostly governed by multiple genes. Simple Mendelian segregation being rare;
  2. Systems of genetic coherence characterize ecologic races; when two races from different environments are crossed, > the F2 tends to segregate with a higher frequency of parental types than would be predicted on the basis of free random recombination.
  3. Such coherence systems do not preclude the production of striking recombinations which provide rich potentials of genetic variation for further natural selection; genetic coherence is probably the basis for the differentiation of ecologic races, subspecies and species in higher plants.
    Hiesey: Cohesion of Traits (1965)

It is particularly interesting to see his diagrams of correlated traits: nine for Achillea and thirteen for Mimulus. Both show that some traits are strongly correlated (inherited together) in the progeny, others are less strongly correlated, and the remainder are only weakly or not at all correlated.

At this point I should note that Hurst (1925) found sets of 50 correlated traits in Rosa species, and recognized the ecological differences among the five groups that he discovered.

The Louisiana Irises have offered lessons on the relationships among species of somewhat different ecological adaptations. One of the early researches identified around 80 species. Subsequent research has shown that many of these were derived from “hybrid swarms” that can occur when the environment has been “hybridized”. E.g., canals dug to connect bayous provide micro-habitats where F2 and later progeny can grow. In undisturbed areas, hybrids are rare, and backcrosses tend to resemble the locally adapted species.
Anderson: Hybridization of the Habitat (1948)

Ehrendorfer reported similar observations in the genus Galium:
“In this group crossing barriers between the very distinct Galium graecum and G. canum remain practically intact on some Aegean Islands, e.g., Rhodes, where strong competition tolerates only a small amount of hybrid introgression in spite of extensive sympatric occurrence. On the Anatolian mainland, however, crossing barriers between G. graecum and G. canum have broken down under less rigorous competition and more possibilities for ecological and geographical expansion.”
Ehrendorfer: Differentiation-hybridization cycles and polyploidy in Achillea (1959)

In some cases, separation of species appears to have “evolved” where the ranges of the species overlap, and the hybrids have little opportunity for survival. But specimens of the same species, collected far from the overlap, may cross freely.
Sinskaya: Wide Hybridization in Alfalfa etc (1960)
If species which natural migration has brought from afar enter conditions which are very different from those of their earlier areas of distribution, the tendency of two species to mutual incompatibility may weaken, and then one can observe a mass production of natural interspecific hybrids between species of different chromosome levels in certain localities; under such conditions, not triploids, but fertile tetraploids are formed (we have studied an occurrence of this kind in Daghestan).

The “evolution” of such isolation was observed when two strains of maize were grown together, and all the crossed seeds were eliminated. In this case, however, only one of the parent strains came to favor its own pollen over the other type.
Paterniani: Selection for Reproductive Isolation, Maize (1969.

Among other things, it is clear that two species may crossbreed, exchange many genes, then to on in their original form with little apparent alteration. This seems to be especially the case where the parents differ in their ecological adaptions.

In other cases, a disturbed habitat (whether caused by humans, or by flood, landslide, or other natural event) can be host to a hybrid swarm. And as with the Louisiana Irises, even the genus Rosa can be overloaded with “species” that turn up in such a swarm. For instance, Rosa Beggeriana and the closely allied R. lacerans Boiss. et Buhse, R. cabulica Boiss.; and R. anserinaefolia Boiss.

I had the good fortune to see a hybrid swarm derived from some old and accidental hybrids of the common radish and the jointed charlock. The original crossings apparently occurred in the 19th century, but in a suitably “hybridized” habit (near a drainage “creek” in Belmont, CA) the derivatives are not yet ready to settle down like proper species. I would not care to name every variation I saw, let alone pretend that any of them are proper species. And not one of them should be regarded as a “synonym” for one of the ancestral species.

One way to deal with hybrid swarms, is to make scatter diagrams of the various traits, as Anderson (1949) described as the Method of Extrapolated Correlates. (It’s not as scary as it sounds)

This is a far saner, and less debatable, approach than the usual method of each taxonomist picking his/her favorite handful of traits to delineate species in the hybrid swarm. Then the next authority shows up with a different handful, and the original species eventually end up as “varieties” of some isolated F5 generation hybrid.

I have more links here:

Could this be an R. Arkansas variant? The picture of that rich, dark, saturated pink reminds me of a rose I found growing up beside a sidewalk once: it was certainly the richest color I had seen in a species rose by far (north central Washington state). Does anyone know what this could be. It was unlike any of the others growing around. I collected pollen from it, but wasn’t sure if this rich coloring would come through in crosses with it’s pollen or not.

This is a cross Belle Poitevine x “Lacombe Park” an unregistered double Rosa Arkansana.
This seedling continues to impress me. It continues to put out new buds and show no signs of disease.

I once saw an even darker red version of the species growing in gravel on the side of a train track crossed the country road. That was in rural Mayetta, KS in the 1980s. I have tried to find the spot on Google maps, but it’s gone. The track, slope and all. There were at least two red-flowered plants, one or more that were lighter, along with the usual pink. It was similar to this:

About a mile and a quarter away (as the crow flies), where I was living at the time, there was a colony (probably a single plant) with white flowers.

There are interesting things to find on country roads if you have access and the time to ramble.

Very interesting, thank you Karl! I will keep my eyes open while I am perambulating about.
Has anyone tried working with variations they have found to see if there is an impact in the results found from the variation? Would it be similar to changing from Rugosa to Rugosa alba or rubra?
Chuck, that is a beautiful rose! Any fragrance come through?

Come to think of it. I never thought of checking.
I consider scent to be one of the last things in the order of creating Prairie hardy roses.
This seedling continues to put out new blooms,
I am collecting pollen to backcross to both parents next year.

It does seem to make a difference when using a white-flowered mutant. Or even a white-fruited mutant.
I started with an article by Skinner (1956):
Rosa virginiana was one of the American rose species that I used many years ago with rather indifferent results; however in the spring of 1950 I had in bloom, in pots, plants of R. damascena Celsiana, R. d. rubrotincta and a double white form of R. alba as well as a plant of R. virginiana alba. The flowers of the latter were fertilized with the pollen of the three old roses and from the seed secured about twenty seedlings germinated in 1952. Two of these seedlings that flowered for the first time this year had double flowers, one had white flowers resembling R. alba while the other had clear pink flowers like Celsiana in form and only slightly smaller; the foliage of all these R. virginiana alba hybrids is clean looking and nice. Pollen from these hybrids was used this summer on some of the old roses with apparently satisfactory results.”

I then built a bibliography of similar examples, including Irises, Strawberries, Blackberries, Lilies, Maize, and Foxgloves.

To understand how this can work, we need to delve into just a little chemistry. For example, starting with dihydrokaempferol, we can follow a chain of enzyme-directed chemical reaction through dihydroquercitin, leucocyanidin, eyanidin to peonidin.

But there is much more to the story because some of those molecules can be directed into different paths and products. That is, dihydroquercitin is also precursor to quercetin (in its various embellished forms), luteolin and I don’t know what all else.

If there is a blockage between dihydrokaemopferol and dihydroquercitin we end up with pelargonidin and apigenin instead of quercetin and luteolin. And all the other goodies I can’t name.

White-flowered mutants may differ in just where the break-down occurs. Bateson (1909) crossed two white flowered sweet-peas. The F1 product was similar to ‘Purple Invincible’. The F2 generation nicely, showing that the two parent strains were white-flowered because of different

Other flavonoids are involved with fertility, among other physiological necessities. Knoch, et al (2018) described some of these:

"As one of a few exceptions, a relationship between pollen-specific flavonol glycosides and pollen fertility is well established (Mo et al. 1992; van der Meer et al. 1992; Ylstra et al. 1992). Pollen of flavonoid-deficient mutants of petunia (P. hybrida) are unable to germinate, resulting in male sterility (Mo et al. 1992; Napoli et al. 1999). Likewise, maize (Z. mays) mutants deficient in flavonoids are also male sterile (Pollak et al. 1995). This phenotype was rescued by the exogenous addition of flavonol aglycones such as kaempferol and quercetin, indicating that flavonoids are essential for functional pollen in petunia and maize (Mo et al. 1992). "

A loss of pigment may accompany a similar loss of a related substance. Or, the loss of one product might lead to an increase in another.

In either case, a pigment-mutant may be a more obliging partner in breeding because the “foreign” partner compensates for the imbalance in the mutant.

Karl, than you for that information! Very interesting indeed!
It now gives me pause to wish I had kept one of the white seedlings, along with the blush I kept.
I had a dozen seedlings (all white), tried breeding with several and got all white seedlings with them. All white except for one, which was the most vigorous, so I retained it. But now I wonder if I should have retained a white one as well.
I will pay closer attention to results with white ones in the future.
Thank you!

You might enjoy Ralph Moore’s account of how he got started, and how two little roses that would never make it on the open market, turned out to be valuable parents. We are commonly expected to assume that champions are always begot from other champions. Moore’s experience expects that we should give some of the runts a chance to show their hidden talents.

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Fascinating reading, thanks for sharing that!
I’ve wondered how people decide to keep or full seedlings that aren’t exactly what you are working for, but have some positive traits (whatever you are breeding for). It certainly will take time to determine if a particular plant will be useful, whether as seed parent or pollen parent, and if it will pass on certain desirable traits. Obviously this amount tlof time required must surely limit the numbers each season that can be retained for testing. How do you determine that?
I am particularly finding that difficult when they don’t have juvenile bloom. Any thoughts or advice on seedling selection?

I have read advice for selecting tree seedlings, but little for roses. Correlations of traits can be important if we look for them.

One thing to consider is that pass through developmental phases that can have different properties. For instance, Burbank wrote that he removed any seedlings that showed signs of fungal infections, because he insisted on healthy plants. To the contrary, I read about a woman who was disappointed when a crop of promising seedlings all got mildewed. But as they matured, they became resistant. She was happy that she hadn’t pulled them too early.

There has been discussion about juvenile bloom, but I think the subject is somewhat confused when juvenility is not considered. Some rugosas don’t begin blooming until they are two or three years old. After that they rebloom as well as siblings that bloomed the first year. And this applies to strains derived from other species. In such cases it is useful to remember that maturity in plants begins at the top and moves downward. This is easy to see in apple trees. Suckers (water sprouts) from near the base of the tree are fairly quick to root and slow to fruit, like seedlings. Layers from the mature wood in the crown are difficult to root, but once started are quicker to flower and fruit.