Forest Folklore: Discovering Wild Roses

One of the things that I love most about painting new wildflowers is discovering more about the history and folklore attached to them. Many wildflowers that you'll come across have a story, a superstition, a piece of folklore, maybe some historical symbolism or a traditional use - and I find it fascinating to discover what these are!


Roses are no exception. In fact, before I started painting this flower, I went delving into the stories and folklore behind roses and I found SO much. So I will just share a few of my favourite facts and folklore that I came across while discovering more about this beautiful and well loved flower...



TUDOR ROSE

A red and white rose was the symbol of the Tudor kings and queens. It came about after the English civil war in the 15th century, termed the War of the Roses, where the house of Lancaster, represented by the red rose, and the house of York, represented by the white rose, fought for the crown. After Henry VII became king and married Elizabeth of York the houses were brought together and Henry combined these two symbols into one, known as the Tudor rose.


AN ANCIENT FLOWER

Roses are closely tied to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, as well as Venus her Roman counterpart. Back in these ancient times rose petals and oils were used often for perfume, decoration and offerings to the Gods - even Cleopatra was known to decorate her rooms with this sweet smelling flower.


DOG ROSE

The wild rose found in the UK is named the Dog Rose, rosa canina - and this name seems to come from the traditional belief that the root of this plant was able to treat a dog bite!


FOLKNAMES

Other names for the wild Dog Rose are Briar-Rose, Dog Briar, or a favourite of mine, Witches' Briar - all of which point towards the thorny tangle that this wildflower creates.



Here is my recent wild rose illustration painted in gouache:


I love to spot wild roses in the hedgerows, both during the summer months when they are flowering but also in autumn when you get the lovely orange red rosehips appearing - and I hope I've captured a bit of both of these seasons in this painting!



If you wanted to read more about the stories, history and symbolism behind roses then I found these two articles really interesting:


National Trust - Scents and sensuality: stories of roses in our collections

History Extra BBC - A brief history of the English rose