What Is the Origin of the Rose Flower?

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Roses predate human existence.

The origin of the rose (Rosa) flower occurred before humankind evolved. Fossils found in Colorado have been dated to 35 million years of age. As it, and humankind, evolved, the flower came to represent life, love and purity – and its symbolism even went so far as to represent warring families. The mummies of Egypt were buried along with roses, Cleopatra was reputed to have strewn rose petals on the floor of her bedroom to welcome Marc Antony, and poets in Iraq referenced them in 3000 B.C. Its heady fragrance propelled the rose to become the favorite of mythical and actual queens, Greek goddesses and lyric writers.


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Roses grow in a range of USDA hardiness zones, from as cold as zone 3, up to zone 9.

The Rose in Religion

Most of the world's religions associate the rose with life unfolding and spiritual joy. In Greek mythology, the rose symbolized eternal love. Muslims recognize the rose as a symbol of the human soul, sprinkling rose petals over graves and anointing themselves with rose oil before prayers.


Christians look to the rose as a reminder of the Garden of Eden before sin entered, yielding roses without thorns. It is told that the rose developed thorns after the sin. The thorns of the rose crowned Jesus, and the rosary was named after the flower and represents the prayers offered while holding the string of beads. Judaism and its mystics use the rose as a metaphor for creation, with each petal unfolding to the center. Hindus carry a string of beads, their version of the rosary, and use each as an indication of prayers said.

Recognizing the Largest Rose Producers

Most of the world's roses come from Ecuador and are exported to countries around the world. The low cost of labor and the low cost of land surpassed that of India, which was the leading grower at the turn of the 21st century. Ecuador's geography and climate conditions contribute to the country's production, as the roses receive more hours of sunlight each day, and are grown at a high altitude, giving the stems longer to reach their optimum length.


Globally, the trade in cut flowers is a multi-billion-dollar business, thanks to the efficient delivery methods and the development of a "cold chain" of transport, from the farm to trucks, trains, airplanes and boats that keep the roses in a dormant state until they reach the retail markets. The largest buyers are the UK, the EU and the United States. Vase life is usually 10 to 15 days.

Discovering Different Rose Species

With over 150 different rose species and thousands of hybrids now in existence, the rose of today has evolved far beyond the simple bloom of yesteryear. There are three classifications of roses:


  • Wild Roses or Species Roses: These have four to eight petals and bloom just once.
  • Old Garden Roses: These existed prior to 1867 and are known for their heady fragrance.
  • Modern Roses: The classification of these roses began in 1867 with the introduction of the hybrid "tea rose" 'La France.' It has a strong tea fragrance and a large bloom.

Unique variations on the rose include the 'Juliet' from famous rose horticulturalist David Austin. Created in the U.K., it took several million dollars and 15 years to develop. Another special rose is the 'Overnight Scentsation,' a miniature rose used to study how the low gravity of space affects fragrance. It is today known as the 'Space Rose.'


In addition to the flower itself, the interior core left on the bush after the petals fall off, known as the "rose hip" is used in cooking, brewing and as the base for many medicines.


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