This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
" The canker blooms have full as deep a dye As the perfumed tincture of the rose."
The name Canker refers to the fruit, and the galls caused by Rhodites rosce. Some people used to think a scratch from a rose was venomous. The name Dog Rose is from its lack of scent and beauty, as compared with the garden rose, though as a wild flower it is noted for both.
Michaelmas Day is called Hipping Day in Yorkshire, because hips were collected just then for confectionery. The name Itching Berries, like Ticklers, refers to the practice boys had of putting berries down one another's backs at school.
In a Scottish ballad the lines occur:
" Out of her breast there sprang a rose, And out of his a briar; They grew till they grew into the church top, And there they tied in a true lover's knot".
A rose sprang up after the battle of Towton, where the rivals of the roses fell:
The prickles are said to point downwards, because when the Devil was turned out of Paradise he tried to regain his place by a ladder made of its prickles; but when only allowed to grow as a bush, he placed its prickles in an eccentric position from spite. It is under the special protection of elves and dwarfs in Scandinavia, etc. It was thought to possess mystic virtues in love matters. It was of bad omen when seen in dreams withered, but meant success in love when dreamt of blooming; and to dream of being pinched by them shows that the person has an ardent desire for something. Troths and roses have thorns about them. "A bed of roses", "As sweet as a rose", "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet ", are proverbs or well-known quotations.
The Rose was worn by the Romans in garlands; and in Greece, if a lover died before his wedding a rose-bush was planted at the head of his grave. It was used in bridal bouquets and in funeral rites, and was thought by Anacreon to possess special virtue for the dead. The Rose was dedicated to Venus as the flower of love.
Roses and blood are connected in popular fancy, the former being used for haemorrhage in Germany. From Chaucer's " Romaunt of the Rose" it appears to have been connected with Whitsuntide. Churches were decked with it on St. Barnabas' Day. The clergy used to wear garlands of roses, and churches were adorned with it on Corpus Christi Day. Roses were said to fade on 20th July, St. Mary Magdalene's Day. The Rose was said to have formed the Crown of Thorns. If roses bloom in autumn it indicates an epidemic in the year. In Italy it is unlucky for a rosce to drop its leaves.
"Robin Redbreasts", as the plants were also called, were once used for whooping-cough, and the leaves as a poultice in Greece. When the birds complained of the nightingale's nightly wailings, the latter replied that the rosce was the cause of its grief. The first rosaries were roses that replaced the brands on a maiden accused of wrong and doomed to death at Bethlehem.
The colour of the rosce is due to Mohammed's blood, so the Turks tell us. There is a Roumanian legend as follows: "It is early morning, and a young princess comes down into her garden to bathe in the silver waves of the sea. The transparent whiteness of her complexion is seen through the slight veil which covers it, and shines through the blue waves like the morning star in the azure sky. She springs into the sea, and mingles in the silvery rays of the sun which sparkle on the dimples of the laughing waves. The sun stands still to gaze upon her; he covers her with kisses and forgets his duty. Once, twice, thrice, has the night advanced to take her sceptre and reign over the world; twice has she found the sun upon her way. Since that day the lord of the universe has changed the princess into a rosce, and this is why the rosce always hangs her head and blushes when the sun gazes on her."
"Under the rosce" owes its significance to the habit of wearing roses in garlands.
The hips are made into a conserve used in medicine, and as a dessert in Gerarde's day, who says they " maketh the most pleasante meates and banqueting dishes, and tarts, and such like ". The petals were used in Chaucer's time for wounds and ointments. The rosce has long been used in perfumes. It has been cultivated, and much improved in the process in colour, scent, and form.
Essential Specific Characters: 104. Rosa canina, L. - Stem erect, branches arching, prickles equal, hooked, leaflets flat, leaves pinnate, serrate, flowers white, large, petals notched, peduncles smooth, sepals reflexed, not persistent, styles hairy, fruit scarlet, many-seeded.