Saturday, August 7, 2010

Downy Rose (or more correctly: Gall and Unknown Rose)

Downy Rose (Rosa tomentosa)

Downy Rose (Rosa tomentosa)

This was going to be the mystery flower for the month of August.

Photos of it have been sitting in my iPhoto collection for at least a couple of weeks. I've looked in all my books trying to identify it but it doesn't even look like a flower. It looks more like a dustball that you might find under the bed except that it's bright red.

I've seen it only in one place, just up from Castle Hill farm, on the left and buried in the weeds. Sometimes I'll walk past and don't see it at all, other times it just barely catches my eye. I think it's from outer space. How can it be that none of my books display anything even remotely close? I was flummoxed. I thought maybe my eyesight was really getting bad and that maybe it was just wild strawberries - so I took a closer look and was surprised to discover thorns (ouch) and rose-like leaves. That should have been my first clue.

So, I thought, it must be a rose planted and since forgotten by someone at the nearby farm. My next task would be to concentrate on the rose family (groan). Fortunately, I was saved from that daunting task by a stroke of good fortune: I found a photo of it while browsing the National Education Network Gallery! I need to do a bit more research to confirm but I can't imagine there'd be other flowers that look quite like this one.

Downy Rose (Rosa tomentosa) and Gall

Downy Rose (Rosa tomentosa) and Gall

Update August 09: I can hear my daughter scolding me now: "MOM, YOU DIDN'T EVEN READ IT, DID YOU?"

She's right. I didn't bother to read the text next to the photograph on the NEN website. If I had, I wouldn't have wasted two hours last night searching for a rose that had a bundle of red fibers for a bud.

This is what I would of, could of, should have read:
The Downy rose grows in hedgerows and grassland. Like many wild roses it is frequently attacked by the gall-wasp -Diplolepis rosae. Gall wasps are small dark-coloured insects about 4mm long. The wasp punctures the plant and lays its eggs. The galls are formed by a reaction of the cells of the plant to the presence of the larva. Although the exact reactions in the host plant are little understood. The galls are a mass of filaments within which are found a number of sealed chambers enclosing larvae. The larvae feed on the gall tissue. On downy roses such galls are bright red and known as robin's pin-cushions.

Live and learn.

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