An Excerpt from
Old Roses of Denver
© Lucretia Saville Weems 2005 All rights reserved
Would Jove appoint some flower to reign
in matchless beauty on the plain
the Rose (mankind will all agree)
The Rose, the queen of flowers should be.
Sappho, c.550 B.C.
Rosa woodsia — courtesy swcoloradowildflowers.com
Roses grow wild throughout the northern hemisphere, in a remarkably wide range of ecosystems, from the tundra to the tropics. Tracing the origins of Denver's roses, connections emerge around the globe. Some of the plants come to us from China, some from Persia, others from France. Many roses lead us to swashbuckling tales of botanical explorers hundreds of years past.
The rose's reach through time is equally impressive. The love affair between human beings and roses goes back to the beginnings of civilization, yet the Earth and the rose have coexisted much longer. The oldest known rose in our hemisphere dates back thirty-four million years. It was found in Colorado in the Florissant Fossil Beds by a woman named Charlotte Hill, a true pioneer heroine. Married at 13 and mother to seven children, she was a self-taught paleontologist who regularly traveled the forty miles by buckboard from her home in Colorado City (now western Colorado Springs) to Florissant, where she hunted fossils. Over 160 of her spectacular specimens of plants and insects, including the perfect butterfly fossil Prodryas persephone, are now housed in formal collections at the Smithsonian, Harvard and Yale.
By 1894 Ms. Hill had started a museum in Colorado City, an unlikely event given the town's population of 200. The fossilized rose she found is named after her, Rosa hilliae. Her efforts to create a national monument of the area were finally realized in 1969. Two Colorado wild roses--Rosa woodsii and Rosa arkansana--flourish there today.
Rosa Hilliae Florissant
Fossil Beds National Monument
Charlotte’ Hil’s Prodyras Persephone fossil
Prodyras Persephone replica
courtesy Franz Anthony