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How to write a Rose Name

Have you ever wondered how to write a rose name. There seem to be innumerable variations to choose from. Now that the typewriter age has passed all the rare or un-english characters not available on the qwerty keyboard like umlauts, accents, cedillas, diphthongs, etc are now available via the PC Charmap and other programmes. You only have to make sure that you are using the same font on your writing and character programmes.

When it is a simple species then it is easy. The genus or family is Rosa and the species is something and these are always either in italics or underlined. Rosa may be abbreviated to R or R. which is what I would write as according to the rule I learnt, if the last letter of the abbreviated word does not occur, add a period. The species name is normally not capitalized unless it is a persons name. So Rosa banksiæ and R. Banksiæ are both correct. If there is a particular type of a species selected it may either have a latin descriptor added i.e. lutea yellow, alba white, plena double, etc. or a name in single quotes i.e. Rosa moyesii 'Geranium' or 'Lipstick' or 'Sealing Wax' all of which are colour selections from a species with a wide colour range. These selections are always cloned as they will not normally breed true to type. When a species has two names the elder is normally correct i.e. R. glauca not R. rubrifolia. A longstanding exception is R. wichuraiana which has been corrected to R. wichurana because of the rules defining botanical latin. (This is probably correctly named R. luciae because the botanist Crépin named the same species twice! but common usage is very difficult to change.) When a species has a common name it is written with double quotation marks i.e. Rosa canina is known as the "Dog Rose".

Species crosses occur in the wild, but when they occur in cultivation there are two types. The seed parent is normally known but the pollen donor is only known if records are kept of artificial fertilisation. Records were seldom adequate in the past so names are written as R. x hugonis for an existing species name or R. x cantabrigiensis if the name is new, where the "x" should be a san-serif font because it represents the multiplication symbol. Modern crosses where both parents are known are hybrids and as such have cultivar designation.

Cultivars other than species (explained above) are designated as Rosa 'Rose Name' if this is a correct name. Many old and not so old roses have a number of names depending on where they have been bought and sold. Politics and economics have always occurred in the rose world! If the rose has an unproven or made up name then Rosa "Unknown Rose" or R. "#23 Somewhere Cemetery" is the correct way to write it. This is quite common with found or rescued roses. If only writing about roses then the term Rosa may be dropped.

Since the late 1950s there has been a system of international rose registration which should be used when any registered rose is sold regardless of cultivar name. This code name is in the form ELLrose and is to be used where the three to five upper case letters denote the breeder of the rose. Duplication has occurred because the registration has in some cases been managed by national bodies without consultation with the world body, the American Rose Society. At least two rose developers registered their roses both nationally and internationally so they have two code names. This was because there was not good clarification of the system where national bodies worked for the international authority. Some breeders also use the second part of the name to indicate the year of registration. (This is something like British silversmiths have been doing with hallmarks for centuries.) One breeder that I am aware of uses the breeder code with a numeric to aid their identification. This system has been known to break down. For example when two codenames refer to one rose or an unregistered rose is sold under a cultivar name and a registered rose is sold with the same cultivar name with the same date of introduction. There appears to be a convention that the codename is to be written in brackets. There is a rumour that codenames have been changed such that only the first letter be capitalised and the code should be pronounceable! I am waiting for clarification on this change. Modern Roses 11 states that the code should be written in bold caps and small caps (ELLrose). The system of code names which has worked more or less for fifty years will remain for some time as codenames are usually used before a rose is trialed and marketed and are not always saleable names, some are alphanumerics, ELL06136 for example.

For clarification I try to include the date of introduction after the rose name i.e. 'Black Jade' (BENblack) (1985). Provided that the rose I bought was correctly named anyone can identify what I have. When there is no codename then it helps to include the name of the person who introduced it to the trade. This usually occurs with roses older than the nineteen sixties, but, really old roses mainly Albas, Briars and Gallicas have no known introducers. If you have doubts about a rose's identity then good reference books, catalogues and rose judges are your best sources for correct names, but you may never correctly identify an unknown rose. Those rare before 1910 are rarely photographed and are very difficult to identify from written descriptions. We have identified one of five unknowns in twenty years, but, does it matter if "Semi-double White Climber" (Pre-1986) and "Pink Climber in Lilac" (Pre-1986) never get correctly identified as long as they are enjoyed.

Dobson & Schneider: Combined Rose List 2006
International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants 2004
Modern Roses 11
Miljanovic, Tina in 10th International Historic Roses Conference proceedings

. This article was published in Roses-Canada No. 25, July 2006 the journal of National-Roses-Canada.

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