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Chestnut Rose – Rosa roxburghii

Chestnut rose (Rosa roxburghii) is a fine old rose. Chestnut rose is tough, reliable, and recommended primarily for gardeners interested in historic or old roses. The double form featured here was discovered before the species form, which is a single.

Chestnut rose
Rosa roxburghii – chestnut rose

Rosa roxburghii is native to China. It was discovered by William Roxburgh in Canton, China (thus the species name). Roxburgh worked for the East Indian Company and sent his find to the Calcutta Botanic Garden, the largest in India. The Calcutta Botanic Garden is most famous for the largest banyan tree in the world.

It finally made its way to Europe and America in the early 1800’s. In its native China, Rosa roxburghii is often referred to as ‘sixteen nights rose’ or ‘thorny pear flower’.

The name ‘chestnut rose’ refers to the hips, said to resemble chestnuts. Rosa roxburghii is not what I would call floriferous.

Every specimen I have seen, even at peak spring flower, is a lot of foliage and a few blooms. In addition, chestnut rose’s flowers often grow tucked within the body of the plant, like they are shy. The foliage is unusual, divided into many leaflets, giving chestnut rose a full appearance. When I come upon Rosa roxburghii in bloom, my first reaction is always to wonder what that plant is with the rose-like flowers.

Every specimen I have seen has been extremely healthy. Disease resistance, typical of many of the old roses, is outstanding.

The flowers are small, perhaps 3″ across, but you can see the form and color we associate with so many of the classic old roses of the 18th and 19th century. The buds resemble those of moss roses, sporting a liberal coating of fuzz. The fragrance is light (barely existent to my nose).

Rosa roxburghii is hardy zones 6-9.

chestnut rose
Chestnut rose (rosa roxburghii) in the landscape.

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