Rose names: a contribution from Europe

Hieronder het artikel uit de Nieuwsbrief van de World Federation of Rose Societies “by any other name” (BAON Issue 15, March 2017) over namen van rozen, overgenomen met medewerking van de auteur, Piet Bakker. In dit artikel wordt uitleg gegeven over de namen en de indeling van de familie rozen. (H.H. 28-02-2017).



Malcolm Manners, in the “BAON” issue 14 of July 2016, wrote an article on guidelines for naming roses. I agree that it is necessary to follow the guidelines in the two International Codes for Nomenclature, one for wild plants and the second one for cultivated plants. Both Codes are freely available on the Internet. The Cultivated Plant Code (ICNCP) is from 2009. Noting that the article by Malcolm Manners was reprinted from the 2009 issue of “Rosa Mundi”, since then the International Code of Nomenclature for wild plants (ICBN or Vienna Code 2006) has been replaced by the modified International Code of Nomenclature 2012 (ICN or Melbourne Code). The basic category of wild plants is the species; those of cultivated plants is the cultivar (this is an abbreviation from cultivated variety). However, variety is not a synonym of cultivar. Variety is one of the ranks for wild plants. The distinction between wild and cultivated plants is not always easy. Plants brought from the wild into cultivation retain the names that are applied to the same species growing in nature. But if certain wild plants after long cultivation have obtained particular characterisctics that are clearly distinctive, uniform, stable, and if they retain them by propagation, they may become a cultivar.
Sometimes certain cultivars are erroneously presented as varieties from wild roses, e.g. Rosa gallica var. officinalis instead of Rosa gallica ‘Officinalis’ (already cultivated in the Middle Ages or earlier) and as the reverse Rosa ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ (a garden seedling from 1834) as a wild rose. In the Official Registry and Checklist Rosa (2nd edition, 2014) several cultivars from Rosa gallica have been presented as species roses. Another problem is that sometimes the ranks of wild roses below the level of species (subspecies, variety or forma) are omitted, e.g. for Rosa carolina in the Checklist 2014.

Foto Piet Bakker - Rosa tomentosa

Rosa tomentosa (Harsh Downy-rose). A wild rose from Europe

Sometimes people are erroneously using the word ‘family’ instead of class or group and ‘race’ instead of cultivar. The family is Rosaceae (rose family) with many genera, species and cultivars. According to the Code the word ‘race’ is no longer allowed. The use of the term ‘species roses’ is botanically incorrect. Better is ‘rose species’. However, the best seems to me ‘wild roses’. The term ‘botanical species’ is also incorrect or at the least redundant, because all plants are botanical.

Foto Piet Bakker - Rosa Lijiang Rose

Rosa ‘Lijiang Rose’ (Rosa gigantea f. erubescens) – From N.W. China

Since 1955 The American Rose Society is the International Registration Authority for Roses. In 1998 they defined the code names (trade names) as the variety denominations (i.e. the cultivar names) and the well-known fancy names as exhibition names. Before 1998 the exhibition names were the variety denominations. Registered code names are placed between single quotes; fancy names without single quotes. Code names with an abbreviation of the breeders name are attractive for the rose growers because there is less chance that the same name will be used for two or three different roses. But for the public it is a mystery. How could rose amateurs distinguish between roses bred by David Austin (UK) like Rosa ‘Ausjake’, ‘Ausjive’, ‘Ausjo’, ‘Ausjolly’ and ‘Ausjump’? I prefer to call my favourite rose Rosa Graham Thomas and not with the banal, rather meaningless name ‘Ausmas’. To prevent errors it is alway preferable, indeed recommended, to use the combination of code name and fancy name.

In addition it is confusing that we also have legally protected trade names which are intended for marketing purposes. They are not interesting for amateurs who want to buy a rose. Trade names are not regulated under the International Code. Often I have read that an Old Garden Rose is a rose which was in existence prior to 1867. This is incorrect. In 1966 The American Rose Society defined an Old Garden Rose as any rose belonging to a class which was in existence prior to 1867, the introduction of the first modern rose ‘La France’. This means that not the date of introduction of a certain rose is decisive but the question if the class from that rose existed already before 1867. Also a particular rose which was introduced after 1867, but belonging to a class of Old Garden Roses, is an Old Garden Rose. Examples are: ‘Parkzauber’ (Kordes 1956) which belongs to the class of Moss Roses, ‘Lord Scarman’ (Scarman, 1995) and ‘Teresa Scarman’ (Scarman, 1996) which belong to the class of Gallica Roses, ‘The Hon. Mrs. Cat’ (Scarman, 1995) belongs to the class of Damask Roses, ‘Kirsten Klein’ and ‘The Lady Scarman’ (both Scarman, 1995) belong to the class of Hybrid Musks, ‘Baby’s Blush’ and ‘Scarman’s Crimson China’ (both Scarman, 1995) belong to the class of Hybrid Chinas.

Foto Piet Bakker - Rosa Simon Doorenbos

Rosa (Spinosissima Group) ‘Simon Doorenbos’ – A rare Dutch cultivar, not in commerce.

The use of the word ‘class’ in the classification of the American Rose Society is confusing. In the plant kingdom classes are Lycopsida, Pteropsida and Spermatopsida (formerly also Mono- and Dicotyledones).

According to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP, 8th edition, 2009) it is possible to use names of informal cultivar groups. Those names may be placed between round brackets before or behind the cultivar denomination. In this way instead of Gallica Class we will have Gallica Group (with initial capitals). Examples for cultivars are Rosa (Gallica Group) ‘Tuscany’ or Rosa ‘Tuscany’ (Gallica Group) and Rosa (Hybrid Tea Group) ‘Peace’ or Rosa ‘Peace’ (Hybrid Tea Group). The word Group is easy translatable into other languages.
Some rose breeders have invented several other group names for marketing purposes. All those names are invalid and confusing. Examples are English Roses bred by David Austin (UK), Romantica Roses by Meilland (France), Generosa Roses by Guillot (France), Simplicity Roses by Jackson & Perkins (USA) and Babylon Eyes Roses (= Sweet Spot Roses in USA) by Interplant (The Netherlands). The German breeder Kordes offers even roses from five different new groups: Parfuma Roses, Rigo Roses, Märchen Roses, Lilliputs and Eleganza Roses. Rose amateurs could lose their way in all those unofficial and superfluous names. Another problem in the classification of the ARS is the frequent use of the word Hybrid (e.g. in Hybrid Gallica, Hybrid Rugosa). However many garden roses are not hybrids but sports (mutations) or selections. According to the International Code all hybrids, sports and selections of garden roses are called together cultivars. Instead of the word Hybrid the use of the word Group would be better. This is in accordance with the Code. So we will have Gallica Group and Rugosa Group instead of Hybrid Gallica and Hybrid Rugosa. The name of the Hybrid Tea Group has to be maintained because otherwise there would be no difference with the Tea Group. In Europe the use of Group indications is common now for the cultivars of several big genera like Rhododendron, Acer, Clematis and Rosa. The ‘List of names of woody plants’ by M.H.A. Hoffman (2005) with those group indications is now recognised as the European standard for the nomenclature of nursery trees and shrubs. I hope the use of group names for roses soon will be introduced worldwide.

All the photos were taken in the Belmonte Arboretum (Wageningen – The Netherlands) by Piet Bakker who has been a member of the Dutch Rose Society for more than 50 years. As a professional botanist he has written more than 100 publications, including a monograph about the wild roses of The Netherlands (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, University Leyden, 2011).
When the university of Wageningen (The Netherlands) decided to eliminate their two botanical gardens for research and education, Piet Bakker saved the important rose collections in both gardens from destruction. More than 400 different roses (mainly wild roses and historic cultivars) have been gathered and planted again in the ‘Belmonte Arboretum’ by a foundation as the new owner.

Readers may contact him at:

Referentie: de World Federation of Rose Societies