Sometimes there seems to be an inverse ratio between how old a plant is and how much we know about it. The older the variety, the more its story is shrouded in the dusty rubble of antiquity and obscurity. This is very true of the European species the double cinnamon rose, R. cinnamonea flora pleno.
The rose appears listed in the most famous botanical treatise of the sixteenth century, John Gerard’s Great Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes. The 1596 book was popular for over a century, and is a compendium of all the horticultural plants known in England at that time.
This pedigree does not seem to have brought the double cinnamon rose much respect in the ensuing four hundred years. Identified by its somewhat flat flower heads with exposed stamens and its curious shiny brown twiggy canes, it is a rose rarely cultivated, but found often in really old cemeteries throughout the Northeastern US. It must be tough, because it is often the only surviving rose in country graveyards like this one.
As for the name, it is sometimes posited that the flowers smell like cinnamon. I sniffed until I was lightheaded, but couldn’t get even the faintest whiff of spice. I favor the other theory, that the brown stems resemble the bark of the cinnamon tree.
We don’t know how this rose came to North America, but this flower pilgrim must have crossed over early, and probably often, to have found its way to so many remote places, where it has lingered unnoticed ever since.