It is an evergreen climbing shrub, scrambling over other shrubs and small trees to heights of up to 5–10 metres (16–33 ft). The leaves are 3–10 centimetres (1.2–3.9 in) long, with usually three leaflets, sometimes five leaflets, bright glossy green and glabrous. The flowers are 6–10 centimetres (2.4–3.9 in) diameter, fragrant, with pure white petals and yellow stamens, and are followed by bright red and bristly hips 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) diameter. The flower stem is also very bristly.
The flower is commonly associated with the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans in the southeastern United States. Its white petals are said to represent the tears the Cherokee women shed during the period of great hardship and grief throughout US government-forced march from the Cherokees' home to U.S. forts, such as Gilmer. The flower's gold center is said to symbolize the gold taken from the Cherokee tribe.
In popular culture
- USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Rosa laevigata". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
- "Legend of the Cherokee Rose". Powersource.com. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
- "The Trail of Tears - Cherokee Indians forcibly removed from North Georgia it is also mentioned in the season 2 episode of the walking dead Cherokee rose". Ngeorgia.com. 2007-06-05. Retrieved 2011-12-05.