Why taxonomy is fun and confusing … on the naming of roses.

For years we have grown a truly splendid red-leaved species rose that is hardy to zone 2 (that’s really hardy). When we first knew it, it was named Rosa rubrifolia but in recent years it has been renamed Rosa glauca. Takes a bit of remembering and getting used to , but I think we are there now. I finally decided to find out the reason for the name change and after a lot of searching came across the following explanation. Sadly it had nothing to do with DNA profiling or any of the other modern and abstruse taxonomic arts, just good old-fashioned precedence. ?

[Quote} “The familiar name R. rubrifolia (1789) is antedated by R. glauca Pourret (1788). It is arguable that the latter name, although the earliest, should be discarded as a source of confusion, since the name R. glauca Vill. ex Loisel. (1809) has been widely used for another ally of R. canina. However, even if the name R. glauca Pourret for the present species were to be rejected it would be impossible to maintain the name R. rubrifolia, which Villars rendered illegitimate by citing his own earlier-named species R. ferruginea as a synonym. This was a taxonomic error, since his R. ferruginea, with leaflets hirsute on both sides, was clearly not the same as his R. rubrifolia, which always has perfectly glabrous leaflets. The illegitimacy of the name R. rubrifolia means that if the name R. glauca Pourret were to be left in abeyance it would be necessary to take up the next legitimate name in order of priority, which would appear to be R. rubicunda Hall.”