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Rose Trivia

The rose has a long history of facts, myths and legends.  It has played important parts in history for the Greeks, Chinese, Romans, and many other cultures.  Here are a few myths, legends and facts about the rose.

The rose is native to the United States.  The oldest fossilized imprint of the rose was left on a slate deposit found in Florissant, Colorado, and is estimated to be 35 million years old.  It is therefore fitting that President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1987 that made the rose the United State's National Floral Emblem.

 

In legend, the Prophet Mohammed was away fighting a war when he began to long for his wife, Aisha.  Mohammed was tormented by the idea she was being unfaithful and asked Gabriel for help.  Gabriel suggested Mohammed give his wife a simple test.  When he returned home he should ask Aisha to drop whatever she was carrying into the water.  If she was faithful, it would stay the same color and prove her unwavering love.  Mohammed finally returned from his battle and Aisha rushed to greet him, carrying a huge bouquet of red roses.  She was surprised when he commanded her to drop them into the river, but obeyed and the roses turned yellow.  Eventually, Mohammed forgave his favorite wife but for some, the yellow rose remains a symbol of infidelity.

 

The rose may be pleasing to poets and lovers, but it also rules over one of the blackest periods in the history of England, the War of the Roses.  This conflict was summarized as follows by Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part II:  “And here I prophesy:  this brawl to-day, grown in this faction in the Temple-garden, shall send between the red rose and the white, a thousand souls to death and deadly night.”  The men of Lancaster took the white rose as their emblem, while the House of York chose the red rose.

 

          The rose is a legend in its own.  The story goes that during the Roman Empire there was an incredibly beautiful maiden named Rhodanthe.  Her beauty drew many zealous suitors who pursued her relentlessly.  Exhausted by their pursuit, Rhodanthe was forced to take refuge from her suitors in the temple of her friend Diana.  Unfortunately, Diana became jealous and when the suitors broke down her temple gates to get near their beloved Rhodanthe, and she also became angry, turning Rhodanthe into a rose and her suitors into thorns.

 

When a man presents his sweetheart with the gift of a dozen roses, he hardly expects her to make them into a salad or a sauce!  Yet flowers in general, and roses in particular, have always played an important role as a luxury food throughout Europe and the Middle and Far East.  The use of roses in cuisine has a long history.  The Chinese were probably the first to popularize the rose as food.  Travelers’ tales recount how in Nanking, the capitol of China during the Middle Ages, there was an intensive rose-growing industry to produce petals to be used to flavor tea and pastries, as well as a liqueur called "sand of roses".

 

The rose is an ancient symbol of festivals and the commemoration of historic events.  Every year on June 24, representatives of one of the oldest religious foundations in London offer the Lord Mayor a red rose on a cushion in payment of a tax originally owed by a certain Robert Knollys.  He was ordered to pay this tax ad vitam eternam (for all eternity) in the fourteenth century for the crime of having created a passage between two houses that he owned on either side of Seething Lane, without council.  At the other end of Europe, the Catalans celebrate Saint George’s Day, April 23, by giving each other a rose and a book.

 

The world’s oldest living rose is thought to be 1,000 years old.  Today it continues to flourish on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral of Germany.

 

 According to Greek mythology, it was Aphrodite who gave the rose its name.

 

The rose is the state flower of Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia.

 

          June is National Rose Month in the United States.

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