Rosa × damascena

Rosa × damascena
Rosa × damascena
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Rosa
Species: R. × damascena
Binomial name
Rosa × damascena

Rosa × damascena, more commonly known as the Damask rose (Arabic: الوردة الدمشقية‎), the Damascus rose, or sometimes as the Rose of Castile, is a rose hybrid, derived from Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata (Huxley 1992). Further DNA analysis has shown that a third species, Rosa fedtschenkoana, is associated with the Damask rose.[1]

The flowers are renowned for their fine fragrance, and are commercially harvested for rose oil (either "rose otto" or "rose absolute") used in perfumery and to make rose water and "rose concrete". The flower petals are also sometimes used directly to flavor food or to make tea and are considered safe for human consumption.



The Damask rose is a deciduous shrub growing to 2.2 metres (7 ft 3 in) tall, the stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles. The leaves are pinnate, with five (rarely seven) leaflets. The roses are a light to moderate pink to light red. The relatively small flowers grow in groups. The bush has an informal shape. It is considered an important type of Old Rose, and also important for its prominent place in the pedigree of many other types.


The hybrid is divided in two varieties:[2]

  • Summer Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. damascena) have a short flowering season, only in the summer.
  • Autumn Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. semperflorens (Duhamel) Rowley) have a longer flowering season, extending into the autumn; they are otherwise not distinguishable from the summer damasks.

A still popular example of R. × damascena is the Ispahan rose. The hybrid Rosa × centifolia is derived in part from Rosa × damascena, as are the Bourbon, Portland and Hybrid Perpetual classes.

The cultivar known as Rosa gallica forma trigintipetala or Rosa damascena 'Trigintipetala' is considered to be a synonym of Rosa × damascena.[3]

History of cultivation

Rosa × damascena is a cultivated flower, no longer found growing wild, and the history of just where it came from is varied, but generally understood as coming from the Middle East.

The Crusader Robert de Brie is sometimes given credit for bringing the Damask rose from Syria to Europe sometime between 1254 and 1276. The name refers to Damascus, Syria a major city in the Middle Eastern region. Other stories say the Romans brought the rose to England, and a third account says that the physician of Henry VIII gave him a Damask rose, as a present, around 1540.[4]

There is a history of fragrance production in Afghanistan (Kabul Province) from the Damask rose.[5] An attempt has been made to restore this industry as an alternative for farmers who currently produce opium.[5]


Rosa × damascena is best cultivated in hedge rows to help protect the blooms from wind and to facilitate ease of picking. Gathering the flowers is quite labor intensive as it must be done by hand. There are about twenty to forty days per year when harvesting occurs, depending on the type of Rosa × damascena cultivated in the region. The roses are gathered by hand and brought to a central location for steam distillation. Photos showing production methods can be seen here.[6]

The largest producers of rose oil from the different names all falling under the name Rosa × damascena are Bulgaria and Turkey. France and India also contribute significantly to the world market. Morocco, Tunisia and some other Persian and Middle Eastern countries have historically produced rose oil, but their modern contribution is minimal.

The town of Kazanlak Bulgaria was founded in 1420. It is assumed by most historians that the cultivation of the Kazanlak Rose began around that period. Rosa × damascena, known in this region as the Kazanlak Rose, were reportedly brought to the area by a Turkish judge who brought them from Tunisia and cultivated them in his own fragrant garden, and is now cultivated for commercial use in an area surrounding Kazanluk called the “Valley of Roses.” The distillate from these roses is sold as ‘Bulgarian Rose Oil”, and “Bulgarian Rose Otto”. Follow this link to read more about the yearly Rose Festival in Bulgaria in honor of the rose.[7]

Turkish rose oil is sold as “Rose Oil”, “Turkish Rose Otto” and "Rosa Damascena Attar”, or “Ittar’ in similar languages. While there are still families who run their own small distilleries and produce what is known as “village oil”, the commercialization of Rose Oil as a high quality product is carefully regulated through a state-run cooperative in the Isparta region of Turkey. The Roses are still grown by the small family farms but the flowers are brought to one of many stills set up and regulated by the cooperative for distillation and quality control.

India has also developed an industry producing Rose Oil (both Rose Attar and Rose Absolutes) as well as Rose Concrete. Perhaps due to the low labor cost and the commitment of the Indian Government to international trade and high quality standards, these products from India today are cheaper than those from Bulgaria and Turkey.[citation needed]

The city of Taif in Saudi Arabia is famous for the cultivation of this flower, which is called "Ward Taifi".[8]

Culinary uses

Damascus roses are used in cooking as a flavouring ingredient or spice. It appears as one of the ingredients in the Moroccan spice mixture known as ras el hanout. Rose water and powdered roses are used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Rose water is often sprinkled on many meat dishes, while rose powder is added to sauces. The most popular use, however, is in the flavoring of desserts such as ice cream, jam, Turkish delights, rice pudding, yogurt and etc. Chicken with rose is a popular dish in Persian cuisine. Western cookery today does not make much use of roses or rose water. However, it was a popular ingredient in ancient times and continued to be popular well into the Renaissance. In the west, it was most commonly used in desserts. Many traditional desserts in Europe, however, still make use of roses, such as Marzipan or Turrón.

Damascus rose water

For centuries, the Damascus rose (Rosa damascena) has been considered a symbol of beauty and love. The fragrance of the rose has been captured and preserved in the form of rose water by an ancient method that can be traced back to biblical times in the Middle East, and later to the Indian subcontinent. An Iranian doctor, Avicenna, is credited with the invention of the process for extracting rose water from rose petals in the early 11th century.

Damascus roses were introduced into England during the reign of Henry VIII and were frequently displayed and scattered at weddings and festivals. Nowadays, they are popular in craft projects and as potpourri ingredients. They are used in wedding favours, gathered together in organza bags or favour boxes, and they replace the traditional Avola sugared almonds to make perfumed keepsakes. They are also used to decorate festive tables. They are also used as hair decorations when attached to hairpins.

The uses of the dried Damascus rose in beauty products are numerous. Soaking Damascus rosebuds in water for three or four days releases a rose essence which can be added to bath water or may be used to rinse hair after shampooing to leave the skin and hair soft with the fragrance of roses. As the gentlest of all astringents, rose water is often used as toner for fair and dry skin or as an anti-ageing product in facial creams. Damascus rose oil also has therapeutic properties that sooth the mind and helps with depression, nervous tension and stress.[citation needed]

Damascus roses are also used in cooking. Rose water and powdered roses are used especially in Indian and Arabic cooking. Rose water was sprinkled on almost all meat dishes, rose powder was added to sauces, yogurts and other desserts. Chicken with rose jam was a valued dish in Persian cuisine. Western cookery today does not make much use of rose water, but Mediterranean cuisine still favours it, especially in such delicacies as rose petal jam.[9]

See also


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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