Rose Cuttings – February, 2009

Yellow Lady Banks. Photos courtesy of the author.

The Yellow Rose of Texas – Mystery or Myth

Everyone has heard the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” and at the Antique Rose Emporium display gardens we are asked repeatedly for the Yellow Rose of Texas. But is there a true Yellow Rose of Texas? The jury is still out. Here are four plausible candidates – you decide.

‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’ adds its breathtaking beauty to a courtyard at the Antique Rose Emporium’s San Antonio display garden.

‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’
In the month of March and April, Texas is blessed with this yellow rose of unsurpassed beauty. Here is a tidbit of history that adds value to this horticultural treasure. ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’, a vigorous spring-blooming rose, was brought to England in the mid-1800s. Its discoverer was Robert Fortune, who made several journeys to China between 1844 and 1850.  On his first trip, made for the Royal Horticultural Society, he was able to visit Fa-tee Nursery (Flowerland Nursery) in Canton. Through this nursery, plants from China were distributed to the rest of the world via collectors like Robert Fortune, William Kerr, John Parks and the efforts of the East India Trading Company. The nursery was more than 200 years old at the time of his visit. Frustrated at being able to secure plants only through the nursery, Fortune shaved his head save for a pigtail and dressed as a Chinese citizen, which allowed him to expand his search. In 1845, while visiting a Mandarin in Mingpo, he found ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’ and brought it back to England. Other roses he discovered and brought back include R. Fortuniana and R. anemoneflora, which are in cultivation today.

Yellow Lady Banks
The vibrant Yellow Lady Banks rose is also known as the Tombstone Rose. One of these roses was planted in 1855 in Tombstone, Arizona, and now covers 8,000 square feet with canes exceeding 100 feet long. In Texas, we see it naturalized almost as big, covering old outbuildings and cascading over fences. 

Emily Morgan – the woman some believe to be the real yellow rose of Texas
We all love the story that the name was given to the beautiful mulatto woman who was captured by Santa Anna as Texas fought for its independence.  She not only was able to pass information to the Texas army, but “occupied” Santa Anna as well, allowing Texas infantrymen to easily and quickly win the war in a surprise attack. 

Yellow prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.)

Opuntia spp.
I personally feel that the Yellow Rose of Texas is the bright yellow prickly pear cactus that lights up our Central and West Texas fields in the late spring. The individual flowers mimic those of roses, and they go on for miles and miles.

Happy Gardening!

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit their Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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