Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rosa banksiae

Until I came across the little yellow blossoms in Carmel, California in 2008, I had not thought about this noble flower. I found it in the garden of a yellow painted house just like the ones I remember seeing when I was a little girl. Somehow, this flower used to have more of an effect on me than other climbing roses. It spurred my imagination, made me believe that the families who owned these pretty flowers were happy and prosperous.

I’m learning that Rosa banksiae, common names Lady Banks' rose, Lady Banksia rose or just Banks' rose, belongs to the rose family and it is native to China where it grows at altitudes of 500–2,200 m. It has likely been grown in China for hundreds of years. It was introduced to Europe in the 19th century. The rose is named after Lady Banks, the wife of the British botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

Rosa banksiae is a shrubby plant growing to 6 m tall. There are two varieties; Rosa banksiae var. banksiae with semi-double or double flowers and Rosa banksiae var. normalis with single flowers that have five petals. This is the natural wild form of the species.

The flowers are small, 1.5-2.5 cm diameter, white or pale yellow. It is amongst the earliest flowering of all roses, flowers usually appearing during May in the northern hemisphere. The bush blooms once and the flowers last for about 4 weeks. If my memory serves me right, I do remember a sweet smell, perhaps somewhat similar to violets as some web sites suggest. It is double form which may lead to it having little fragrance most of the time.

The plant may bear some prickles up to 5mm long but unlike other roses it is practically thornless. The leaves are evergreen with three to five serrated margined leaflets 2-5 cm long. This rose is generally much too large for a small garden, however, it can vigorously cover an outlying structure or a tall tree and provide spectacular spring displays. Lady Banksia rose is very long-lived.

Wikipedia provides information on a Guinness record about the world's largest Lady Banksia white rosebush. A young Scottish bride in Tombstone, Arizona received a wooden crate from her family in Scotland with a number of garden plants in it. In 1885 Mary Gee and her friend, Amelia Adamson, planted the rose that came in the trunk in the patio of the Cochise House now known as the Rose Tree Inn Museum, where they were boarders. No one expected the rose to live in the dry climate and poor soil. The Lady Banksia rose flourished and is now thought to be the world’s largest and America’s oldest known rose bush. It covers 740 m2 of the roof on the inn, and has a 3.7 m circumference trunk. Admission is charged to see it.

I believe, Lady Banks Yellow is one of the great classic roses.


  1. Hi Beste - it's one of my favourite clambering roses ... I first came across it in South Africa, and then back here realised my aunt and uncle had one on their balcony .. it's a brilliant bit of life early in Spring .. light scent, beautiful sprays of creamy yellow flowers .. love it! Cheers Hilary

  2. I'd love to see that ancient rose bush!