Rosa × Damascena (Damask Rose) – Biography Points

Damask rose

Table of Contents

Rosa × Damascena (Damask Rose)

The Damask rose, scientifically known as Rosa × damascena, has captivated hearts and senses for centuries. With its rich history, profound cultural significance, and multifaceted uses, the Damask rose stands as one of the most cherished flowers in the world.

Rosa × damascena, commonly known as the Damask rose, is a hybrid rose derived from Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata. It is also known by various names such as the Iranian, Bulgarian, Taif, Ispahan, and Castile Rose. DNA analysis has revealed contributions from a third species, Rosa fedtschenkoana, to its genetic makeup. Renowned for its delicate fragrance, the Damask rose is extensively cultivated for rose oil used in perfumery and for making rose water. Additionally, the petals are edible, used in culinary applications, such as herbal teas, and preserved as gulkand. The Damask rose holds cultural significance as the national flower of Iran.

Description

The Damask rose is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 2.2 meters (7 feet 3 inches) tall. Its stems are densely covered with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles. The leaves are pinnate, typically with five leaflets, though occasionally seven. The roses are light to moderate pink to light red and grow in small clusters. The bush has an informal shape and is considered an important type of Old Rose, contributing significantly to the lineage of many modern rose varieties.

Rosa × Damascena (Damask Rose)

Beautiful Bulgarian Damask Roses
Beautiful Bulgarian Damask Roses
Scientific Classification
KingdomPlantae
Clade Tracheophytes
Clade Angiosperms
CladeEudicots
CladeRosids
OrderRosales
Family Rosaceae
Genus Rosa
SpeciesR. × damascena

Varieties

The Damask rose hybrid is divided into two main varieties:

  • Summer Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. damascena): These have a short flowering season, blooming only in the summer.
  • Autumn Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. semperflorens (Duhamel) Rowley): These have a longer flowering season that extends into autumn, although they are otherwise similar to the summer variety.

The hybrid Rosa × centifolia, Bourbon, Portland, and hybrid perpetual roses are partly derived from Rosa × Damascena. The cultivar Rosa gallica forma trigintipetala, also known as Rosa damascena ‘Trigintipetala’, is synonymous with Rosa × Damascena. Another notable variety is ‘Celsiana’, a semi-double flowering type.

History

Rosa × damascena, also known as the Damask rose, is a cultivated flower not found in the wild. Genetic tests have shown it to be a hybrid of Rosa moschata and Rosa gallica, with contributions from Rosa fedtschenkoana. This suggests its origins are likely in the foothills of Central Asia or Iran.

The French Crusader Robert de Brie, who participated in the Siege of Damascus in 1148 during the Second Crusade, is often credited with bringing the Damask rose from Syria to Europe. The name “Damask rose” refers to the city of Damascus, renowned for its steel, fabrics, and roses.

Some historical accounts suggest that ancient Romans introduced the rose to their colonies in England. Another story claims that King Henry VIII’s physician, Thomas Linacre, gifted him a Damask rose around 1540, though this is questionable since Linacre died in 1524, years before the rose’s documented introduction to the royal garden.

In Afghanistan’s Kabul Province, there has been a tradition of producing fragrances from Damask roses. Efforts are being made to revive this industry as an alternative to opium production. The Damask rose is also significant in Hawaii, where it is known as Lokelani and is the official flower of the island of Maui.

Nirad Chaudhuri, a Bengali writer, noted that Hindus in East Bengal traditionally did not cultivate the Damask rose, considering it an Islamic flower.

Cultivation

Damask roses are best cultivated in hedge rows to protect the blooms from wind damage and facilitate harvesting. In Bulgaria, they are grown in long hedges, while in Turkey, they are spaced apart along trenches. Harvesting the flowers is labor-intensive, with the period varying from a month in cooler conditions to as short as 16-20 days in hotter seasons.

Rose Oil

Iran, Bulgaria, and Turkey are the primary producers of rose oil from Damask roses, with France and India also contributing significantly. The “Bulgarian rose” has been cultivated for commercial use since Roman times in the “Valley of Roses” near Kazanlak and Karlovo in Bulgaria. The distillate from these roses, known as “Bulgarian rose oil” or “Bulgarian rose otto,” is highly regulated. In Turkey, the state cooperative in the Isparta region oversees the distillation and quality control of rose oil.

Culinary Uses

Damask roses are used as a flavoring ingredient or spice in cooking. They are part of the spice mixture ras el hanout and are used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Rose water is often sprinkled on meat dishes, while rose powder is added to sauces. Dishes such as chicken with rose are popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. The petals are also used in herbal tea, especially in zuhurat. The most popular use of Damask roses is in desserts, including ice cream, jam, Turkish delights, rice pudding, and yogurt.

For centuries, the Damask rose has symbolized beauty and love. Its fragrance has been captured and preserved as rose water, a method traced back to ancient times in the Middle East and later in the Indian subcontinent. Though modern Western cooking rarely uses roses or rose water, it was a popular ingredient in ancient and Renaissance times, especially in desserts like marzipan and turrón. The use of roses in cooking has seen some revival in the 21st century through television cooking shows.

Uses and Benefits

The Damask rose is not only admired for its beauty but also for its diverse applications:

  • Perfume Industry: The intense and enchanting fragrance of Damask roses makes them a prized ingredient in the perfume industry. Rose oil, or attar of roses, is extracted through a meticulous distillation process, requiring thousands of petals to produce just a few milliliters of oil.
  • Culinary Uses: Rose water, derived from Damask roses, is a staple in many culinary traditions, especially in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. It is used to flavor desserts, beverages, and even savory dishes.
  • Medicinal Properties: The Damask rose has been utilized in traditional medicine for its purported therapeutic properties. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and digestive benefits.
  • Skincare: Rose water and rose oil are popular ingredients in skincare products due to their hydrating, soothing, and anti-aging properties.

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