Cape Cod Heritage Roses


Michael Walsh

The Walsh Catalog

Rose Links

Bibliography


Roses cover Cape Cod. From the high bluffs of Truro to the salt marshes of Sandwich, roses grow wild. These are the species roses; the ones that come true from seed. These wild roses fill several distinct ecological niches.

The natives, Rosa virginiana and Rosa carolina, live in the damp and fertile areas; the salt marshes on the northern side of the Cape and the many freshwater kettle hole ponds up and down the interior. R. virginiana can even grow in the sand just above the high tide line as in this picture. Its shiny green leaves, red bristled stems and two inch deep pink flowers make it one of the most outstanding of the native roses. It is decorative year round with fine fall foliage and deep red hips in profusion.

The Rugosa roses, native to China and Japan, which have naturalized themselves here over the last hundred years, are commonly know as the "beach roses" or "salt spray roses." They form large colonies, over time, in the sand dunes along the ocean shoreline. With their formidable armament, wrinkled leaves and bold colored flowers, they defy the forces of nature; living where it seems nothing but the coarsest wild grasses can survive.

Wherever you find the wild and tangled places is where Rosa multiflora thrives. Given the right conditions, it can scramble 30 feet up into a tree or make an impenetrable shrub 6 feet high by 6 feet across. It rarely grows by itself, but is more commonly a part of a tangled mass of honeysuckle, privet, poison ivy, and other rowdy plants that grab any convenient location that man neglects for more than a season. Not only do the flowers of multiflora come in huge sprays of small white blooms, but the fragrance released into the air perfumes the neighborhood.

It is the cultivated roses, though, with which we are most familiar. Roses have been cultivated by man for thousands of years and some of those grown by ancient man can be grown by us today. Most of the antique roses on the Cape are only a hundred years or so old. Cape Cod has many rose relics in some of the more preserved neighborhoods. Most commonly, one sees the rambling roses, climbing the sides of houses, engulfing fences, climbing through tangled masses of vegetation on property lines or spilling over stone walls. Along the old railroad lines in Hyannis one can find the a pragmatic use for these ancient ramblers where they were used to hold the embankments from erosion.


Michael Walsh

The Walsh Catalog

Rose Links

Bibliography


Copyright © 2011 Vernon H. Brown