Weekly Series
Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

19 June 2016 | Roses and Its Prickles |

photo photo photo In late May, I put up a new advertisement for “Roses Only Singapore” at the bottom portion of my home page. That triggered my quest to understand more about this thorny plant. On 29 May, I passed by a pasar malam and noticed a few pots of rose on sale. I simply cannot resist the temptation since I had been thinking about roses in the past few days and ended up bringing a pot back home. This was my first attempt to grow rose plant.

In Singapore, roses are not planted in public parks or along roadside. At first, I thought it was due to their thorny stems, which make them unsafe for the public. Later, I realised that the hot tropical weather was not ideal for its survival. Nevertheless, many individual had tried growing it. The post in the Green Culture Singapore website in February 2006 very much summed up the experience of others who attempt to cultivate this prickly plant here. I happened to see one with pink flower in the park last year. I was quite sure it was not planted by NParks since folks around the area liked to bring their potted plants and grow them in the park.

photo photo photo The pot of rose that I brought back had 7 red flowers, which looked really attractive. A day later, I transferred it to a larger pot. To my horror, the leaves and flowers started turning brown overnight. The situation did not improve over the next few days but deteriorated. I kind of accepted the fate that I might loss the plant. All the flowers were gone as well. Miraculously after around 5 days, the tide changed. I started to see reddish new shoots appearing from the leaf nodes. The growth of the new shoots were rather rapid. I was really relief that it had adapted to its new home. Last weekend, I found 2 flower buds at the tip of the new branches. It seemed to be an easy plant to grow, at least for now.

While reading up on the features of the rose plant, the thorns caught my attention. I learned that botanically speaking, thorns, spines and prickles are not the same thing though they may look similar.

  • thorns originated from shoots; they are modified branches or stems (e.g. Citrus microcarpa)
  • spines originated from leaves (e.g. Pereskia grandifolia)
  • prickles originated from epidermis tissue (e.g. rose plant)

In conclusion, roses do not have thorns. Instead, they have prickles, to be botanically correct. However, rose thorns appeared to be deeply embedded in many people vocabulary. There was a song in the 80s with the title “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” while the medical community also referred to rose thorns in their reports. Though relatively rare, gotten prick by rose prickles and with the prickle remained in the body could result in serious medical condition such as tenosynovitis (inflammation and swelling of a tendon), with one case reported in UK in 2007. Apparently, the title of the report was “A case of rose thorn tenosynovitis”. The botanical term of the rose prickles is indeed a thorny issue.

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