The rose has been an integral part of the history, culture, and economy of the USA for centuries. The rose, with its delicate petals and sweet fragrance, has played a significant role in the region’s art, literature, and culture. The following sections discuss the relevance of the rose in shaping the identity of the United States of America.
Roses have a long history in the United States, dating back to the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century. These roses that they brought were primarily the hardy Old Garden Roses. In addition, the colonists also discovered several native roses growing in North America. One of the most famous roses in American history is the Cherokee rose. According to legend, this rose was named after the Cherokee Indians, who were forced to leave their homes and travel westward on the Trail of Tears. As they walked, tears fell from their eyes and the blood of the Cherokee people stained the rose bushes that grew along the trail.
During the colonial period, people essentially used roses to treat ailments and produce personal care products. Afterward, wealthy colonists began to cultivate roses in their gardens, and the flower became a symbol of wealth and status. By the 18th century, several colonial gardens commonly featured roses with many varieties brought from Europe. In addition to their decorative and medicinal uses, roses also played an important role in colonial trade. The rose oil and petals were highly prized commodities and were popular among European merchants. Roses also became an important export for the colonies, with dried rose petals and rose oil being shipped to Europe for use in the perfume industry.
Today, the history of the rose is still an important part of the culture of the USA. People use them as home and garden decorations, as gifts to loved ones, and as a beauty product ingredient. Overall, roses played an important role in the early history of the United States, both as a decorative plant and as a valuable commodity. Americans continue to celebrate the flower’s rich history in the country today, with many historic gardens and parks featuring a variety of rose species.
Roses have played an important role in Native American cultures for centuries. Native Americans used roses to treat a variety of ailments such as stomachaches, colds, and headaches. They also used rose petals to make tea which gives a calming effect.
In addition to their medicinal properties, roses also had spiritual significance for Native Americans. The Cherokee believed that roses were a symbol of love and used them in their wedding ceremonies. The Navajo used roses in their healing ceremonies, believing that the flowers had the power to heal both physical and spiritual wounds.
Americans have also considered roses as an integral part of national holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. On Valentine’s Day, red roses are the most popular gift, symbolizing love and passion. On Mother’s Day, pink roses are a popular choice, symbolizing gratitude and appreciation. Roses are also used to decorate homes and public spaces during the Christmas season, representing joy and festivity. On another note, the country also hosts several rose festivals but the most prominent are the Rose Show & Festival (Georgia), Portland Rose Festival (Oregon), State Center Rose Festival (Iowa), Elizabeth Park’s Rose Weekend (Connecticut), Jackson County Rose Festival (Michigan), Texas Rose Festival (Texas), are Tombstone Rose Festival (Arizona).
Roses are the state flowers of six USA states namely Washington D.C., Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Each state has chosen a different variety of roses to represent them. For example, the Washington D.C. state flower is Rosa ‘American Beauty’ which is a hybrid perpetual rose. Secondly, Georgia’s state flower is Cherokee rose which is commonly associated with the Trail of Tears.
The floriculture industry is a significant part of the American economy, and roses are one of the most popular flowers grown and sold in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the total value of sales of all floriculture crops reached $6.43 billion in 2021. Additionally, the number of producers in the floriculture sector totaled 9,558 in the same year, an 8% increase from 2020. Included in these statistics are the total sales of roses in all 17 states. Further, the rise in demand for cut flowers for decorative purposes has propelled the market.
The demand for roses is highest on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and during wedding season. The floriculture industry has responded to this demand by developing new varieties of roses, such as long-stemmed red roses that are synonymous with Valentine’s Day.
Furthermore, roses have been used in cosmetics for centuries due to their fragrance and skincare benefits. Today, roses are still a popular ingredient in many cosmetic products, including perfumes, lotions, and soaps. Rose oil is a popular ingredient in high-end perfumes due to its sweet, floral scent. Rose oil is essential in skin care products due to its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. Rosewater, which is made by distilling rose petals, is a common ingredient in toners and facial sprays. In addition, many hair care products also use the rose-derived product, rose oil, as the main ingredient. Many believe that rose oil stimulates hair growth and improves the overall health of the scalp. Some hair care products also use rosewater to add shine and moisture to hair.
As demand for roses continues to grow, the industry will likely continue to develop new varieties and products to meet consumer needs.
ARTISTIC AND LITERARY INFLUENCE
Roses also played a role in Native American art and literature. Many Native American tribes incorporated roses into their beadwork and pottery designs. The Blackfoot tribe, for example, used roses in their quillwork designs. Roses were also a popular subject in Native American poetry and songs. The Sioux, for example, sang songs about the beauty of the prairie rose. Here are some examples of how American art and literature have used roses to convey different meanings and emotions:
- Visual Arts – Roses are a popular subject among artists and several US cathedrals feature these flowers as motifs. Georgia O’Keeffe (Abstraction White Rose, 1927) mainly used flowers, particularly roses, as subjects of her paintings. Likewise, Ambrosius Bosschaert (Still Life of Flowers, 1614) who was one of the first artists to specialize in flower paintings, usually depicted vivid images of tulips and roses. Finally, Alex Katz (Red Roses with Blue, 2001) is popular for his combination of three-dimensional space and simplified approach.
- Performing Arts – Roses also play an important role in ballets, operas, and other forms of performing arts. Similarly, these flowers also represent love, passion, gratitude, and pain in most music. Several examples of musical artists who used rose symbolism in their music are Seal (“Kiss From A Rose”), Edith Piaf (“La Vie en Rose”), and Poison (“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”).
- Literature – Roses have been a popular subject in American poetry since the country’s early days. Famous poets such as Emily Dickinson (“A Rose”) and Ellen Bass (“Roses”) explored the themes of a person’s life and death as compared to the life cycle of a rose. Roses have also been a common theme in American prose. In “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’ represented the character Nick Carraway with a rose. In the novel “The Sound and the Fury,” author William Faulkner associated the image of a rose with the character Caddy Compson.
Rose Varieties in the USA
North America has a plethora of native rose varieties spread all over various parts of the region, but some are more uncommon than others. The most widely distributed varieties, particularly in the USA, are Rosa carolina, Rosa virginiana, Rosa blanda, Rosa woodsii, Rosa palustris, and Rosa setigera. These wild roses provide food for bees, a home for nesting birds, and shelter for other types of small animals. Moreover, their fruits contain high levels of antioxidants and important vitamins. In general, roses are not only aesthetically pleasing but they are essential to forest wildlife.
In conclusion, the history of the rose has left an indelible mark on the culture, economy, art, and literature of the USA. It is an integral part of the country’s symbolism, representing love, beauty, and passion, and several states in the US have chosen the rose as the state flower. Further, Americans continue to celebrate its heritage through cultivation and preservation.