Why Do Rose Bushes Have Thorns?

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Every rose has its thorn
Every rose has its thorn (Image: red rose bush image by green308 from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Roses are the most popular flower in the world, and are highly valued and admired for their beauty and significance. Roses come in an array of colors which can express heartfelt feelings of love, admiration, sadness and other emotions. Unfortunately, roses have thorns that grow out of their stems as protection against predators, but they make it difficult to handle them at times.

Misconceptions about Roses

You might think that all roses have thorns. Actually roses are divided into classes or families. Each division has different characteristics. Some roses have large thorns, some small, and some have no thorns at all. Some roses have been bred specifically so they will not have thorns. Not all roses are fragrant nor do they take the same amount of care. There are over one hundred varieties of roses.

There are many types of roses
There are many types of roses (Image: Rose rose image by focusart.fr from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Rose Terminology

Technically speaking, roses do not have thorns, but they do have prickles. A prickle is a superficial spine-like outgrowth from the stem. On the other hand, thorns are a branch of a plant that has become hard, woody, and pointed. Locust trees and cactus plants have thorns, but roses do not have thorns. The prickles on a rose do not develop from branch tissue, so it should technically be called a prickle instead of a thorn.

Benefits of Prickles

Some roses are very fragrant, colorful, sweet and attract all kinds of creatures. For thousands of years, roses have had prickles (thorns). Prickles serve as a protection for these beautiful flowers from rodents and other animals that may eat or harm them. You can imagine that if there were absolutely no prickles on the roses, humans would not hesitate smelling, touching and picking them. Some roses would not grow as hardy and beautiful as they do since they have prickles.

Rose bushes have prickles to defend against predators
Rose bushes have prickles to defend against predators (Image: Thorn image by K. Geijer from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Philosophical Significance

Philosophers like to compare the rose and its thorns to the human condition. A German proverb suggests that instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses. A common belief about why roses have thorns is that the difficulties or thorns we have in our lives can make us stronger.

Nearly Thornless Roses

Certain types of roses have fewer prickles or thorns than others. These rose bushes are particularly useful in gardens for children, for the elderly or where the roses are close to walkways. Roses from the class Polyantha tend to have thorns on the older and lower parts of the bush while the new growth has none.

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