The Wild Cherokee Rose

Rosa laevigata

Cherokee rose is the common name of Rosa laevigata. This wild rose is the Georgia state flower. Rosa laevigata photos, thorns, blooms and habitat. Fragrant white climbing rose.

Cherokee rose flowers.

Rosa laevigata blooms, just once, in the spring. Her flowers are large (about 3.5 inches across), cupped, white and fragrant. Each bloom features a big yellow circle of stamens at its center.

The hips which form after the blossoms fall are oval to pear-shaped and orange when ripe. If left on the plants, the ripe hips quickly turn brown.

Cherokee roses are ramblers. If you grow one as a freestanding mound, it will reach a height upwards of 5 feet and maybe twice this wide.

If grown up into a tree, it can climb to 30 feet. It does not always need to be trained to climb either. This self sufficient species rose has been known to scramble into the canopy of a tree by means of its sharp thorns.

Be sure that the tree you decide to use as an arbor for this climbing rose is large and sturdy enough to handle it. The Cherokee's evergreen foliage will keep a certain amount of light from reaching the tree's leaves year round.

The aforementioned foliage consists of 3 leaflets, is deep green and shiny. It is also as close to immune to disease as rose foliage can be.

This rambling rose is easy to propagate. Just take tip cuttings and dip them in rooting hormone before placing them into moist potting mix. Keep the cuttings moist and shaded until you see new growth.

R. laevigata grows beautifully in zones 7a-10b.

Legend of the Cherokee Rose

Cherokee rose growing on a fence.

In 1838 gold was discovered in Georgia. The U.S. government, blinded by gold fever, broke its treaties with the Cherokee Nation and drove them off the land and into Oklahoma.

The route they traveled is called The Trail of Tears because the Cherokee maidens were so grieved at being forced from the land they loved that they cried all along the trail.

The tribal elders prayed that the Great God would do something to give these heartbroken women the strength to survive the long, difficult journey.

In answer to their prayers, sweetly fragrant white roses grew all along the Trail Where They Cried.

The Georgia state flower is still growing along the Trail of Tears today.

  • The white flowers represent the tears of the Cherokee maidens.
  • The gold stamens symbolize the gold mined from the hills.The 7 leaflets of each leaf stand for the 7 Cherokee clans.
  • The sharp thorns are a symbol of the toughness of the Cherokee people.
  • Rosa laevigata's habit of rooting where its stems touch the soil represents the tribe's love of and connectedness to the land.

History of the Cherokee Rose

Rosa laevigata was introduced to the southern United States from China in the late eighteenth century. It has made itself so at home in this part of North America that many people mistakenly believe this rose to be native to the American south.

The Cherokee rose has a few close relatives:

R. laevigata 'Cooperi' is sold under the cultivar name 'Coopers Burmese'. It features darker stems and leaves than the species and is more cold tolerant.

Rosa anemonoides 'Anemone Rose' syns. R. laevigata 'Anemone Rose', 'Pink Cherokee Rose'

The papery mauve flowers of the 'Anemone Rose' look more like Clematis flowers than roses. The mildly fragrant blooms appear in earliest spring and will repeat if the growing season is long enough. This is a tall shrub which can be trained as a climber in zones 5-9.

R. anemonoides 'Ramona' syn. 'Red Cherokee' is a sport of the 'Anemone Rose'. The glossy leaves and intense pink-red flowers of this bushy, vigorous shrub rose make if perfect for planting in mixed shrub borders.

Expect the scented flowers in early summer and perhaps again in fall.

Plant this American rose introduced by Dietrich and Turner in 1913 in zones 4-9.

If what you want is a Cherokee rose with semi-double flowers, plant 'Silver Moon'.

This cross between Rosa laevigata, R. wichuraiana and 'Devoniensis' is a vigorous climber to 20 feet. The lightly fragrant, 20-petaled blooms appear only once each spring in zones 4-10.

Introduced by Van Fleet to the U.S. market in 1910.

Other Wonderful Roses:

The 'Nearly Wild' Rose Resembles the 'Pink Cherokee'

Old Blush Rose and Morden Blush Rose: Pink Heritage Roses

A List of Cold Climate Roses

Return to Wild Rose Bushes

Wild rose bushes grow in every corner of the northern hemisphere. Learn the colorful history of wild roses. Find a wild rose shrub that will thrive where you live.

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