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Mississippi Gardens Newsletter Archives

Cherokee rose: What's in a name?
Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - March 29, 2004

How does a plant from China obtain a name like Cherokee rose and become the state flower of Georgia? That's an excellent question that will take some time to answer, but answer it we will.

BloomsThis awesome plant is blooming right now in south Mississippi and capturing the attention of all who travel our country roads.

Even if you're familiar with this plant you've got to admit that this year the Cherokee rose is truly outstanding.

Of all the places I've traveled lately I think Hancock County, north of Bay St. Louis, had the most gorgeous display of Cherokee rose. It seemed to be around every curve in the road on Hwy. 43 as it draped high in the trees or mounded upon itself in solitary settings.

Those unfamiliar with Cherokee rose may mistake it for some type of dogwood since it blooms at the same time and is typically found in similar naturalistic areas. However, upon close inspection we find that Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata) is actually an evergreen vine whose grand floral display of white flowers with golden centers is truly outstanding.

The Cherokee rose is a climber and can easily be used to create a screen while covering a fencerow or trellis. It can also be used as a specimen plant where it will form a mound the size of a full size pickup truck.

This rose will trail across other trees shrubs and vines as well, so careful placement is important. It has a rapid rate of growth and spiny thorns as one would expect from a rose and is thus suitable as a barrier plant. It is adaptable to many soil types, but will survive in both wet and dry situations. However, it performs best in well drained and fertile soil.

Unlike many other roses, the Cherokee has great pest resistance and birds especially enjoy the large hips it produces. It is easily propagated from cuttings or from dividing the rootball.

The Cherokee rose was introduced to our country, probably via England, from China in the mid 1700's. It was often found in old Southern gardens and is reported as early as 1759. Over the years, this adaptable and hardy plant escaped into woodlands from the Carolinas to Texas.The flower is woven into the tradition and lore of the Cherokee Indians who are said to have widely distributed the plant.

In 1916, the Georgia General Assembly with the support of the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs selected Cherokee rose as the state's floral emblem because it was "indigenous to its soil and grows with equal luxuriance in every county of the state". There's your answer and happy gardening!

Publications may download photographs at 200 dpi: Flower | Bush

These archived columns were written by Kerry Johnson<, a hobby gardener, former weekly newspaper columnist and retired Extension Horticulture Agent for 11 coastal counties in Mississippi.