FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Driving around our small rural towns you will notice a yellow shrub rose. This yellow shrub rose has many names such as Pioneer Rose, Oregon Trail Rose, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Yellow Hogg’s Rose, and Yellow Sweet Brier. Some of the locals here have called it Traveler’s Rose or Settler’s rose who have had the rose on their farm or homestead through the decades. And that’s just a few of its names, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? Its real name is Harison’s Yellow rose.
This was the first rose of its color in this country. This rose has traveled the country from east to west and back again. In the 1800’s Richard and George Harison were amateur rosarians and kept a rose garden at their home in Manhattan on their estate Mount Sinai in a semirural area. Today Eighth and Ninth Avenue between 30th and 31st streets are now what was once their garden. The Harison brothers kept Persian Yellow (Rose foetida) and Scotch Briar (Rose spinosissima) in their garden. The parentage is still uncertain, but most agree that this must have been a chance hybridization between the Persian Yellow and Scotch Briar growing in Harison’s garden.
After being discovered in Manhattan it was to be given to several nurserymen. Two of the nurserymen were Thomas Hogg and Williams Nursery. Some accounts say it was marketed in 1830 while others say it went on sale in 1835 at the Prince Nursery in Fleming, New York called Harison’s Yellow.
As the pioneers came west some of the pioneer women sewed the roots deep into their hems of their linsey-woolsey skirts. As they walked through the prairie grasses, the dew would moisten their skirts and keep the roots alive. More specifically, it came to Texas from the Prince Nursery by way of Emily D. West, a freeborn African American who contracted with the entrepreneur James Morgan to work as a servant in the town of New Washington. When the revolution for Texan independence from Mexico engulfed New Washington, Emily West became a hero. On April 21, 1836, at Santa Ana Camp Emily distracted the revolutionary leader Sam Houston long enough to give her countrymen time to stage a surprise attack. After 1837, she went back to New York and was never heard from again except in song and lyrics from a folk tune titled, “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. Emily, the maid of Morgan’s Point was of mixed race, a mulatto. With her light complexion she was known colloquially as “yellow”. She was memorialized as “the sweetest little rosebud, that Texas ever knew.”
Texans of the Knights of the Yellow Rose use a yellow rose to pin to their lapels when they convene every April on the site of Santa Ana camp and pay tribute to Emily West. The Dallas Area Historical Rose Society’s newsletter, The Yellow Rose, annually features a yellow rose on the cover. The Harison’s Yellow rose has been used among other yellow roses.
Today this rose is found in many mountain and prairie communities across Colorado growing best in zone 3. This rose grows in cool, dry weather. It has sharp thorns and forms suckers on its own roots. The best part is that it is hardy. It tolerates full sun to part shade, drought, poor soils, and pests. It is said it takes more than one attempt to get this established. I have not found that to be so. My neighbor gave me permission to take one root and shoot from my neighbor’s yard, and it is 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide three years later. Truly this plant thrives on neglect.
— Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Agent