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Rosa × damascena

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Rosa × damascena
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Rosa
R. × damascena
Binomial name
Rosa × damascena

Rosa × damascena (Latin for damascene rose), more commonly known as the Damask rose,[1][2] or sometimes as the Iranian Rose, Bulgarian rose, Taif rose, Ispahan rose and Castile rose, is a rose hybrid, derived from Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata.[3] DNA analysis has shown that a third species, Rosa fedtschenkoana, has made some genetic contributions to the Damask rose.[4]

The flowers are renowned for their fine fragrance, and are commercially harvested for rose oil (either "rose otto" or "rose absolute") used in perfumery and to make rose water and "rose concrete". The flower petals are also edible. They may be used to flavor food, as a garnish, as an herbal tea, and preserved in sugar as gulkand. It is the national flower of Iran.[5]


The Damask rose is a deciduous shrub growing to 2.2 metres (7 ft 3 in) tall, the stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles. The leaves are pinnate, with five (rarely seven) leaflets. The roses are a light to moderate pink to light red. The relatively small flowers grow in groups. The bush has an informal shape. It is considered an important type of Old Rose, and also important for its prominent place in the pedigree of many other types.


The hybrid is divided in two varieties:[3]

  • Summer Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. damascena) have a short flowering season, only in the summer.
  • Autumn Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. semperflorens (Duhamel) Rowley) have a longer flowering season, extending into the autumn; they are otherwise not distinguishable from the summer damasks.

The hybrid Rosa × centifolia is derived in part from Rosa × damascena, as are Bourbon, Portland and hybrid perpetual roses.

The cultivar known as Rosa gallica forma trigintipetala or Rosa damascena 'Trigintipetala' is considered to be a synonym of Rosa × damascena.[6]

'Celsiana' is a flowering semi-double variety.


Rosa × damascena is a cultivated flower that is not found growing wild. Recent genetic tests indicate that it is a hybrid of R. moschata x R. gallica crossed with the pollen of Rosa fedtschenkoana, which indicates a probable origin in the foothills of central Asia[7] or Iran.[8]

The French Crusader Robert de Brie, who took part in the Siege of Damascus in 1148 at the second crusade, is sometimes credited for bringing the Damask rose from Syria to Europe.[9] The name of the rose refers to the city of Damascus in Syria, known for its steel (Damask steel), fabrics (Damask) and roses.

Other accounts state that the ancient Romans brought it to their colonies in England, and a third account is that the physician of King Henry VIII, named as Thomas Linacre, gifted him one circa 1540.[10] Although this latter claim is of dubious veracity as Linacre died in 1524, 16 years before the introduction of the rose to the royal garden took place.

There is a history of fragrance production in Kabul Province of Afghanistan from the Damask rose.[11] An attempt has been made to restore this industry as an alternative for farmers who produce opium.[11]

The flower, known in Hawaiian as Lokelani, is the official flower of the Island of Maui.[12]

Nirad Chaudhuri, the Bengali writer, recalls that Hindus in East Bengal did not cultivate it because it was "looked upon as an Islamic flower".[13]


Rosa × damascena is optimally cultivated in hedge rows to help protect the blooms from wind damage and to facilitate harvesting them. In Bulgaria, damask roses are grown in long hedges, while in Turkey, individual plants are spaced apart along trenches.[14] Gathering the flowers is intense manual labor. The harvesting period for roses is dependent on weather conditions and locations: between as long as a month in cooler conditions, or as short as 16-20 days in hotter seasons.[14]

Rose oil[edit]

Iran, Bulgaria and Turkey are the major producers of rose oil from the different cultivars of Rosa × damascena. France and India also contribute significantly to the world market.

The cultivation of the "Bulgarian rose" as Rosa × damascena has been developed since Roman times. It is cultivated for commercial use in an area in the vicinity of Kazanlak and Karlovo in Bulgaria called the "Valley of Roses". The distillate from these roses is called "Bulgarian rose oil" and "Bulgarian rose otto". While families still operate their own small distilleries and produce what is denominated "village oil", the commercialization of rose oil as a high quality product is carefully regulated by a state cooperative in the Isparta region of Turkey. The roses are still grown by the small family farms but the flowers are brought to stills established and regulated by the cooperative for distillation and quality control.

Culinary uses[edit]

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

For centuries, the Damask rose has symbolized beauty and love. The fragrance of the rose has been captured and preserved in the form of rose water by a method that can be traced to ancient times in the Middle East and later to the Indian subcontinent.

Modern Western cookery does not use roses or rose water much. However, it was a popular ingredient in ancient times and continued to be popular well into the Renaissance. It was most commonly used in desserts, and still is a flavour in traditional desserts such as marzipan or turrón. It has seen some revival in television cooking in the twenty-first century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Rosa × damascena". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.
  4. ^ *Harkness, P. (2003). The Rose: An Illustrated History. Firefly
  5. ^ "A study on the relationships between Iranian people and Damask rose (Rosa damascena) and its therapeutic and healing properties". 2004. The origin of Damask rose is the Middle East and it is the national flower of Iran.
  6. ^ "Rosa gallica f. trigintipetala". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  7. ^ Triparental Origin of Damask Roses, Iwata H1, Kato T, Ohno S., Gene, Vol. 259, Issues 1-2, 23 December 2000, pages 53-9.
  8. ^ Mahboubi, Mohaddese (1 January 2016). "Rosa damascena as holy ancient herb with novel applications". Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 6 (1): 10–16. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2015.09.005. ISSN 2225-4110. PMC 4737971. PMID 26870673. Rosa damascena Mill is the hybrid between R. gallica and R. Phoenicia and is the member of Rosaceae family with more than 200 species and 18,000 cultivars around the world. R. damascena as the king of flowers has been the symbol of love, purity, faith and beauty since the ancient times. It was originated from Iran and essential oil extracting from its flowers has been started since 7th century A.D.
  9. ^ Selina Denman (25 May 2016). "The city gardener: the damask rose's history and appeal". The National News.
  10. ^ Putnam, George Palmer (1878). The world's progress : a dictionary of dates. University of California Libraries. New York : Putnam. p. 387.
  11. ^ a b "Afghan Rose Oil, An Attractive Fragrance for International Markets". Archived from the original on 24 February 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  12. ^ "State flower and individual island flowers". Hawaii State Legislature. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  13. ^ Chaudhuri, Nirad (1987). The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian. London: Hogarth Press. p. 21.
  14. ^ a b Widrlechner, Mark P. (1981). "History and Utilization of Rosa damascena". Economic Botany. 35 (1): 42–58. doi:10.1007/BF02859214. ISSN 0013-0001. JSTOR 4254246. S2CID 22291892.

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