Rose. A small, yet powerful, word, and plant. Rose has been adored by Kings and Queens, given in love by endless suitors, and examined by perfumers for years in an attempt to distinguish every single note that goes into making up its elusive aroma. Yet rose is not one flower – or one fragrance. It has many facets to its make-up – botanically, chemically, and aromatically.
Over the next six weeks, I will be looking at rose in not one, but two, trilogies. I will be looking at rose from a botanical aspect, an aromatherapist’s aspect, a perfumer’s aspect, and from a sacred, and spiritual, aspect, culminating in some great rose blends just prior to midsummer’s eve.
Join me on this beautiful journey to discover more about one of the planet’s greatest creations!
Introducing Rose as a Plant
The rose belongs to the Rosaceae plant family. The majority of roses have five petals; the exception to this rule is the Rosa sericea, a species of rose found predominately in China, Bhutan and India, which only has four petals. Beneath the petals are the same number of sepals. Cultivated roses usually have “clusters” of petals as oppose to wild roses which have single petals. Similarly, roses with aroma are usually single-headed roses, rather than double-headed roses, which have often been bred for their color vs. aroma.
Roses have pinnate leaves and prickles; the prickles of a rose are commonly referred to as thorns. The prickles of a rose are designed to allow the rose to attach itself to other vegetation, although some rose species have prickles which are designed to protect them from being eaten by animals.
Roses come in a variety of colors including red, pink, white, yellow and orange, although hybridization of roses has resulted in some unusual shades of rose colors. Contrary to popular belief, not all rose species are fragrant (see my note above on which types of roses are usually fragrant). Roses range in size from half an inch in flower diameter to seven inches in flower diameter.
The Fruit of a Rose: The Rose Hip
The fruit of a rose is referred to as a rose hip. A rose hip is shaped like a berry and it is produced by open-faced rose species which are pollinated by insects. However, many modern rose hybrids do not provide the facility for pollination due to their “closed” flowers.
Rose hips are, in general, red in color although some rose hips may be black or dark purple. Rose hips have many medicinal and culinary uses including as a source of vitamin C, use in aromatherapy, use in wine, use in jams, and as a herbal tea.
Types of Roses
There are approximately 100 species of roses, which are generally classified into several major categories (with thousands of varieties within the classes). In addition to wild roses, garden roses are usually classified as follows:
old garden roses – includes china, tea, R.alba, R.centifolia, R.damascena, R.gallica, moss, bourbon and noisette roses
modern garden roses – includes hybrid tea, R.grandiflora, R.floribunda, polyantha, miniature and pernetiana roses
The Extraction of Rose
Rose essential oil, for therapeutic and perfumery purposes, is traditionally produced by two major species of roses – R.centifolia and R.damascena. However, today, you may find extracts of rose produced from other scented varieties of rose. Rose is an expensive essential oil to produce as thousands of rose petals are needed to extract a minute quantity of pure rose essential oil; therefore, it might be frequently adulterated by suppliers. Rose essential oil is used in aromatherapy to aid depression, stress, insomnia, female reproductive problems, and in skin care.
Rose is also extracted via solvent and used as an absolute. In addition, it might be extracted to produce a hydrosol.
Learn More About Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatherapie
Consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of AromaticsTM program to learn more how rose is used in aromatic practice!
Encyclopedia Britannica web site, Rose, accessed May 8, 2017
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless, UK: 1995
University of Illinois Extension Our Rose Garden web site, accessed May 8, 2017
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, a consultant, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.