A Thorny Issue


Story Behind the Science

The cultivation of roses began in ancient civilizations for their beauty and scent, as well as for their decorative and medicinal properties. In the early 19th century, rose hybrids were being cultivated for ornamental purposes, resulting in their great biodiversity and endless variety in shape, size, color and fragrance.

Roses have multiple purposes, as they are grown for various festivals, ceremonies and religious rituals, personal cleanliness and ornamental satisfaction. Although roses are often seen as appealing to the senses, they also play an important role in their environment through photosynthesis and respiration processes since they are designed differently from other flowering plants. They are crucial in cleansing urban air, cooling the atmosphere and enriching soil nutrition. They are also seen as noninvasive and incapable of becoming so, as a result of their need to lie undisturbed and in cool soil for a long period of time before germinating.

Although roses are great for the environment, they are extremely helpful to the overall well-being of humans. They have the power to strengthen human physiological happiness by fighting against negative feelings and emotions, such as stress, sadness and fear. The scent of a rose tends to awaken the senses and is associated with many positive thoughts like relaxation, harmony, peace, delicacy, love and kindness.


Roses are not particularly threatened, though they are often victim to natural enemies, including pests, a multitude of diseases and other environmental factors.

Pests include many types of specialized and unspecialized herbivores. Specialized predators typically include those that focus on specific species of roses, such as the rose curculio, a weevil that eats parts of flowers of specific roses but not other flowers categorized as part of the rose family. Unspecialized herbivores are more general predators like aphids, thrips and Japanese beetles. They prey on a variety of different plants rather than a specific species or group of plants. Additionally, roses may suffer from a range of bacterial diseases (e.g., crown, root and stem galls), viral diseases (e.g., rose mosaic, rose rosette, rings) and fungal diseases (e.g., mildew, blackspot). Other potential threats include environmental disorders, including frost, varied states of salinity and the use of herbicides and insecticides.


Fast Facts

Did You Know?

  • Roses have many symbolic meanings in different cultures. For example, the white rose often represents purity in many cultures of Europe and Asia, while red roses may be symbolic of strength.Learn More »
  • The rose family includes many fruits like apples, peaches, raspberries, plums, strawberries and more.Learn More »
  • Many roses have thorns (also called prickles) that protect them against rodents and other predators that pose as threats.Learn More »
  • A bouquet of six roses is traditionally symbolic of infatuation.Learn More »
  • In the Wars of the Roses, fought from 1455 to 1485, the House of York was represented by a white rose, while the House of Lancaster was associated with a red rose.Learn More »
Compare & Contrast Rosa (Genus) Rosaceae (Family)
How many species? 120 or more Approximately 3,000
Where do they occur? Roses can be found naturally growing in the northern hemisphere, from places like the Arctic to Europe and North America, and as far south as North Africa and Thailand. The rose family is most common in Europe, Asia and North America, though they can be found on every continent besides Antarctica.
How do they reproduce? Roses can reproduce asexually through “suckers” in their rootstock or through rhizomes. Plants in the rose family often pollinate through insect pollinators like bumble bees and honey bees. The shrubby trees and herbs that are part of this family reproduce asexually. The fleshy fruits of some Rosaceae plants are consumed by animals, and seeds are scattered through their waste.
Do they have predators? Aphids, thrips, rose weevils, rose galls, rose chafers, earwigs, scales, Japanese beetles, leaf-cutter bees, slugs, mites, rodents and more Specialized and unspecialized herbivores

essortment, "Care for Knockout Roses: How Do I Start a Rose Plant?"