Don’t Stop, but Smell the Roses

These last few days epitomize the height of the sensory season on the Bike Trail.  Both the wild roses and the wild blackberries are in bloom.  The blackberry blossoms have only a faint fragrance; their glory is in the pure white petals against the slightly dark, very

Wild Roses on the W&OD Trail

Wild Roses on the W&OD Trail

slightly bluish leaves.  One notices them also to remember where to go looking in eight or nine weeks, when the first berries begin to ripen.  The roses are all about now.  Their fragrance is luxurious, and their appearance generous and fulsome.  Once the petals fall, all they offer is conventional green foliage, and many scratches for those who get too close while hunting for berries among even bramblier blackberry canes.

As always, these two plants grow in the same places, bloom at the same time, and look much alike.  This year the early May weather has been gorgeous: bright sun, low humidity, a little breeze, comfortable temperatures (just like Northern California is all summer, as I like to say).  So every bike ride is olfactory heaven.  Last year I wrote about the problem of recognizing the differences between the two plants, though the weather was much different:

Last week, before the most recent round of rain, both blackberries and wild roses were in bloom on the bike trail.  They look a lot alike, and can easily be confused by

Wild Blackberry Blossoms

Blackberry Blossoms on the W&OD Trail

the casual observer.  Both grow on brambles, and their leaves are very similar in size and shape.  Both have clusters of five-petaled flowers.  But the blackberries come out a few days earlier, and they grow in looser clusters.  Their leaves are a darker green, edging a bit toward the bluish side of the spectrum.  Their petals are longer and narrower, and are “pure” white.  The roses have lighter green leaves, tending slightly to the yellow side of the spectrum.  Their petals are ever so slightly pinkish-white, and their petals are lobed. . . .  And just one more thing, in case you’re still in doubt:  the roses smell like, um, roses.

I even took some photos, two of which I include here.  There’s nothing like the smell of roses, but I dream of the deep flavors of July’s Blackberry Cobbler.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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