Thorns are curious things. They start to be leaves or branches but get nipped, in some way, so they turn into thorns. They are very useful to roses. They help the slender canes catch on supports, and they frighten away some enemies. Little boys and girls would be sure to pull too many sweet roses if it wasn't for the scratchy thorns. Can you think of any other plants that have thorns? Thistles? No thistles have spines and prickles. A true thorn has wood and bark. Blackberry and raspberry briars have thorns. So have crabapple and hawthorn trees. Those plants, too, have five-petaled, rose-like, fragrant blossoms. Perhaps—but wait a minute. Don't think too fast!

The blossoms of the rose grow in clusters at the ends of the branches. You find there a bunch of hard green buds that seem to be the swollen ends of stems. The bud is solid where it joins the stem, but the covering of the tip is parted into five, thick, green, leaf-like scales that are folded around a hard center. Those scales are called sepals. As the bud swells, pink lines peep out between the sepals. Then, slowly, the sepals separate into five pointed lips of the solid, round flower cup below. They flare back and show five, broad, pink silk petals set in a fluttering rosette.

Just five in the wild rose! Once in a long, long time you may find ten petals, for you know there are some plants born with a genius for going up higher. The rose is so beautiful, and it has such a sweet smell, that it has been petted and fed and helped to grow better, in sheltered gardens, for hundreds of years. In every country it was just a little different, even when wild. It was a tiny shrub a few inches high, in far northern places, a tall bush or a long, trailing vine farther south. And it has been transplanted and the pollen crossed, so many times, that it has been wonderfully changed. From the single pink, or white, or yellow blossom, the rose has grown into the many-petaled, many-tinted queen of the garden.

It was easier to improve the blossom of the wild rose because, just inside the circle of five petals is a little forest of pollen-tipped threads, around the five button-topped columns in the middle. The rose makes more pollen than is needed to grow seeds. It has no honey to give to bees and butterflies. It has its pretty color, its sweet perfume and its pollen to attract friendly visitors. These pollen threads are very ready to drop their yellow dust and broaden into petals. And they are just as ready to turn back again. If the seeds of the finest, double garden roses are planted, they sometimes forget all their long training, and go back to the single-petaled blossom and straggling canes of the wild rose. They have to be grown from cuttings to keep them tamed.

Left alone, nature might never have made one of our double roses of the garden. She doesn't seem to care to make the flower better. All she thinks about is the seed. As the rose must depend upon birds to scatter her seeds, she tries to see how tempting she can make the fruit, so the birds will be sure to eat it. When the pink petals fall, the seed cup swells and closes its mouth, leaving those five sepal scales to turn dry and brown at the top of the red hip. The rose hip is too hard for some seed-eating birds to manage in their little insides, so one member of the rose family made the soft, sweet, seed-filled fruit of the blackberry. Another one made the raspberry.