Outdoors: Shakespeare's Roses

Aug 19, 2020

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Apparently, Shakespeare liked roses. He mentioned them - not just in "Romeo and Juliet" - but in more plays and sonnets than any other flower.

Being emblems of the Houses of York and Lancaster, red and white roses thrived Shakespeare's historical plays. 

What could be more romantic than a long-stemmed red rose?

Insect research pioneered by Karl von Frisch has revealed that honeybees cannot see the color red.

But, most bees can see yellows, blues, purples, and a color we humans don't see: ultraviolet. When a bee sees a white rose, she is no doubt responding to ultraviolet markings.

Wild roses are a lavender-ish pink - a color visible to insect pollinators.

Bees that visit red roses most likely are responding to the yellow centers.

As for scent, most plants pollinated by insects smell sweet to humans.

Wild and tea roses are almost overpowering with their fragrance.

But to develop many commercially-sold roses, plant breeders attempted to achieve beautiful colors, long-lasting blooms, sturdy stems, and disease resistance. Hybridizing roses for these attributes, fragrance was sacrificed.

So hybrid roses, by any other name, will probably not attract pollinators or smell as sweet.