Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Confederate Rose

I had never seen a Confederate Rose until we moved to Georgetown, 
and I think it is one of the prettiest flowers I've ever seen. 
The Confederate Rose, or hibiscus mutablis, is a Chinese import, brought from England in  the 1600s. 

 It became important in the hearts and gardens of Southerners during the hard days of the Civil War 
because it was so easy to propagate.  

Stick a cutting in the ground and you had 
a plant to share with a neighbor.  

Also called the Cotton Rose, the bush produces white flowers.  Over the course of the two days a blossom lives,
it gradually turns from white to pink, and pink to nearly red, and then falls off the bush. A member of the hibiscus family, its changing color is reflected in the second part of its scientific name, mutablis.

At the time of the Civil War a legend developed around the way the flower changes color.  It goes like this.  
A soldier, fatally wounded in battle, fell upon the roots of a rose as he lay dying.  
 As the young man's blood flowed from his wound, more and more was absorbed by the blooming bush, causing the  flowers to gradually change 
from white to pink to red.  
When he died, the flowers did, too, falling to the ground around the soldier.

After the 'War of Northern Aggression' was over, the bush was planted widely on soldiers' graves in Southern cemeteries.

In this bush you can see the light and dark pink flowers that will fall off by morning and be replaced by opening white buds.  Each blossom is about six inches across.

Neither a rose nor a native, the beautiful Confederate Rose 
is an immigrant,
just like many of us who now call the South 'home'.


  1. Looks lovely. Do you have one in your yard?

    1. We don't but now that I know how to propagate them, I will soon!

  2. Looks very attractive and thanks for the history on the flower.
    I wonder - ask Paul - are any of these roses along the fairways
    at Augusta???

    1. From Paul:
      The only rose I ever saw at Augusta was a fellow with the first name “Justin”. No other roses, including the Confederate variety. Virtually all flowering plants at Augusta National (see the link following) are, of course, centered around the Masters. If Mother Nature threatens to have the azaleas bloom early, 10-15 days before the tournament, the club applies either bags of ice or blocks of dry ice near bushes’ roots to delay the grand showing. The PGA has a wonderful slide show:

    2. Thanks for the info. mate.
      Yep, Justin Rose might be called when he English Rose - ha ha!
      I had read somewhere about the azaleas and their blooming on time. After all
      what would the Masters be without those amazing flowering shrubs. I suspect some
      people go to sniff the flowers rather than watch the golf!!!
      Cheers and thanks

  3. What a beautiful legend....and flower. thanks for sharing.

  4. It's surprising the number of things that go along with history. As you say it's a gorgeous flower.

  5. That's a fairy tale story of the young man and the rose.
    A beautiful one at that.

  6. Even though we lived in part of the south fot 12 years on the VA eastern shore, I had never seen one of these flowers. Thanks for the background story and photos.

  7. Dear Cynthia, a lovely flower and a haunting story. The War, which has several names, depending on which part of the country the speaker comes from or claims, needed to have flowers like this that lightened the heart and myths/stories also that captured the imagination amidst such horrific devastation. Thanks for doing all this research and sharing it with us. Peace.

  8. and it's not even a rose. Lots of fantasy in these names....

  9. not familiar but really very pretty !
    i have a wall shrub climber in my garden and it's pretty small flowers change color exact the way you mentioned ,flower bloom white and then turn pink and then more dark pink

  10. Love those photos with the pink against the deep blue sky.