A Brief History of the Rose

French's Point
Published April 10th, 2012

The rose traces its roots all the way back to prehistory. According to fossil evidence, roses have been growing on earth for 35 million years. The first cultivated versions of the rose appeared in Chinese gardens more than 5,000 years ago. The ancient Romans were big fans of the rose, growing huge quantities of it in the Middle Eastern areas of their empire. The Romans used the flowers as decoration and the petals as confetti or to make medicine or perfume. Cleopatra is said to have welcomed Mark Anthony by sprinkling rose petals at his feet.

During the 17th century, the flower was so sought-after that European royalty considered roses and rose water legal tender. In the 18th century, roses began being cultivated in earnest in Europe with strains imported from China. These roses were frequent bloomers and are the ancestors of most modern-day roses.

Roses have come to symbolize a wide variety of emotions and virtues. Here’s a brief list of some of those associations:

  • Red Rose: love, passion, desire
  • Yellow Rose: friendship, caring, joy, and freedom (during Victorian times, the yellow rose symbolized jealousy)
  • Coral Rose: desire
  • Peach Rose: modesty
  • Dark Pink Rose: gratitude and appreciation
  • Pale Pink Rose: gentility, admiration, and sympathy
  • Orange Rose: fascination and enthusiasm
  • White Rose: innocence, reverence, humility, and truth
  • Purple/Lilac Rose: love at first sight, enchantment
  • Red and Yellow, blended: gaiety
  • White and Yellow clustered: harmony
  • Red Roses and White clustered: bonding and harmony