Rosa Brunonii: the Himalayan Musk Rose

ThisRosa Brunonii is the rose that has been masquerading for half a century or more as “the musk rose”. Chances are still good that if you purchase a “musk rose” or a plant of Rosa moschata at your local nursery, R. brunonii is what you will get.

The confusion is to some extent understandable. The two roses are closely related. Both bear clusters of single, fragrant white flowers, and both sport elongated, grayish-green foliage. Rosa brunonii is far the larger of the two plants, however. Whereas the true musk rose hovers about 6 feet tall unless supported, R. brunonii climbs quickly to 20 feet or more, easily scaling walls, trellises and trees. And while R. moschata will not bloom until late summer or autumn, R. brunonii flowers during the usual rose season, June to July here in the Pacific Northwest.

It is unfortunate that the mix-up with R. moschata nearly drove the true musk rose out of commerce, but we should not blame R. brunonii for our own mistakes! It is a lovely climbing rose in its own right, and certainly worth growing wherever a vigorous white climbing rose is needed. The form usually grown is a selection called ‘La Mortola’, found growing in an Italian garden of the same name and brought into commerce by Bunyard in the 1950s. Disease resistant and hardy to USDA Zone 5.