The forgotten 'Prairie Youth'

The Spinosissima ‘Prairie Youth’, developed in 1948 by William Godfrey of the then Canada Department of Agriculture Morden Experimental Farm, has only three descendants - ‘Prairie Charm’, ‘Prairie Dawn’ and ‘Prairie Sweetheart’. All these cultivars were developed 40 - 50 years ago. Since then - nothing! And yet ‘Prairie Dawn’ is one of the great Canadian roses. It’s still available from mail order rose nurseries and garden centres.

‘Prairie Youth’ is unique because it is one of the very few cultivars cold hardy to Zone 2 having Hybrid Tea cultivars in its pedigree. The reason for this is the heavy dose of three cold hardy species (Rosa arkansana, R. laxa (‘Ross Rambler’) and R. spinosissima altaica in its parentage. The Rugosa ‘Germanica’ is also in its pedigree.

It’s likely ‘Prairie Youth’, because of having Hybrid Teas in its pedigree should produce a good variety of colours in its progeny. It’s interesting that the staminate parent of ‘Prairie Dawn’ was a species hybrid having white flowers - Rosa laxa (‘Ross Rambler’ x R. spinosissima altaica. Yet it produced a selection (‘Prairie Dawn’) having bright, salmon-pink flowers of good form. So if a cultivar used as a staminate parent (I would always use ‘Prairie Youth’ as the pistillate parent - the seeds germinate relatively easily) to cross with 'Prairie Youth has yellow in its parentage or a variety of colours in its pedigree, the colour of the flowers of the progeny should be even more interesting.

‘Prairie Youth’ is a tall (2 - 3 metres), rangy shrub. Therefore, I would use it to breed Pillar or Climber roses (‘Prairie Dawn’ is this type of rose). I think it would be ideal to cross it with Rosa kordesii cultivars. I’ll begin this year by using the L83 germplasm. At the present time, I have newly germinated seedlings of it having ‘Hazeldean’ (yellow) as the staminate parent.

I have used Prairie Youth for many years, see the following list for those that I have assigned numbers to (normally only about one half of my seedlings are assigned numbers):

Number 339 looks interesting, but it has not set open pollinated hips so far.

You can see what I did with Prairie Youth in 2007 by looking at the following spreadsheet:


Thanks for the education Paul. Looks great, too bad it’s not more readily available.

Looks nice. If I had that, I’d probably cross it to Trumpeter and Tatton.

The link below gives a picture of Prairie Youth from the Ohio State Wooster garden:

Pictures of my Prairie Youth seedlings are at: