Rosa banksiae, commonly referred to as the Lady Banks' Rose, is a species of Rosa native to central and western China, in the provinces of Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Yunnan; it grows in mountains at altitudes of 500–2200 m.
It is a scrambling shrubby liana growing vigorously over other shrubs to 6 m tall. Unlike most roses, it is practically thornless, though may bear some prickles up to 5 mm long, particularly on stout, strong shoots. The leaves are evergreen, 4–6 cm long, with three to five (rarely seven) leaflets 2–5 cm long with a serrated margin. The flowers are small, 1.5-2.5 cm diameter, white or pale yellow.
There are several varieties, the most known are:
- Rosa banksiae var. banksiae. Flowers semi-double or double (rosa banksiae alba plena), with numerous petals replacing most or all of the stamens; a cultigen developed in Chinese gardens.
- Rosa banksiae var. normalis Regel. Single flowers, with five petals; the natural wild form of the species.The rose is named after Lady Banks, the wife of the eminent botanist Sir Joseph Banks (after whom the Banks Peninsula is named).
Cultivation and uses
R. banksiae has likely been grown in the gardens of China for hundreds of years. The species was introduced to Europe by William Kerr, who had been sent on a plant-hunting expedition by Sir Joseph. He bought the first Lady Banks' Rose, subsequently named the 'White Lady Banks' (R. banksiae var. banksiae) from the famous Fa Tee nursery in 1807.
A number of other forms were subsequently discovered growing in China:
- the white, small-flowered R. banksiae var. normalis (1796) is considered the "wild" form;
- 'Banksiae Lutea', the 'Yellow Lady Banks' Rose, probably the most popular (brought to Europe in 1824 by J. D. Park), light yellow full blooms;
- and R. banksiae 'Lutescens', a rose with light yellow simple blooms.
All Lady Banks' roses are said to smell of violets to varying degrees, some say the most fragrant of all banksiaes is rosa banksiae normalis.
According to Guinness, the world's largest rosa banksiae bush was planted in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1885 and still flourishes today in the city's sunny climate. This rose bush now covers 8,000 square feet (740 m2) of the roof on an inn, and has a 12-foot (3.7 m) circumference trunk.
Zone 6 to 10. It likes warm weather. It doesn't survive under -9C (15F).