In her 1913 poem Sacred Emily, Gertrude Stein noted that a ‘rose is a rose is a rose’. Removed from their context, these words have often been interpreted freely.
Had he still been alive in 1913, it’s unlikely that botanist François Crépin (1830-1903) would have accepted the words as meaning that any fragrant rose can simply be called 'a rose'. For Crépin, a rose and its specific identity as captured by its scientific name were highly individual and far from generic. For this botanist, Rosa arvensis was neither Rosa canina nor Rosa coronata.
Confronting a wealth of newly-described wild roses, this self-taught botanist and rose-specialist dedicated most of his life to bringing order to this complex and confusing group of plants.
People have appreciated roses as beautiful and fragrant flowers for centuries. The Greek poet Sappho (c. 630 – c. 570 BC) referred to the rose as ‘the queen of flowers’. Cross-breeding and grafting of roses from all parts of the world became enormously popular in the 19th century, with the number of man-made hybrids and cultivars expanding immensely - today there are over 20,000 rose varieties.