Its nearest rival is the GrandGala developed by the Netherlands

A rose without thorns is like love without heartbreak. It doesn’t make sense, said a wag. Perhaps. But in the modern day business of commercial rose cultivation, a thornless rose makes a lot of business sense and is a desirable attribute.

This has led a team of scientists led by Markandey Singh of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, to develop the country’s first thornless rose called the Himalayan Wonder.

A deep red purple in colour, the rose is a cultivar of First Red, one of the most widely sold varieties in the world, which is extensively grown for commercial purposes in India too. Its nearest rival is the Grand Gala developed by the Netherlands, but IHBT director P.S. Ahuja claims that the Himalayan Wonder is superior to the Gala in many respects. For one, it has a sturdier stem, has no leaves close to the flower and has a shelf life of seven days. “The Grand Gala is droopy and has a short shelf life,” he said.

Dr. Singh stumbled on this unusual type while conducting some other experiments and isolated it to see how it would maintain this trait. Five years later, when they found that the selected plant maintained the stability of trait expression and did not revert to a thorny state, they named it. The rose is presently growing profusely in the Institute’s polyhouses in Palampur.

Said Dr. Ahuja: “We have grown it at a height of 4,200 ft and hope it will sustain its other characteristics like colour and strength of stalk when grown at lower elevations. Its DNA is well known and can be easily identified.”

The institute is already getting queries from Pune and Bangalore, where roses are grown commercially. The length of the flowering shoot on an average is 78 cm and the diameter of flowers is 10 cm.

Worldwide, some varieties of thornless roses of the floribunda type are prevalent, but among the cut flower tradable varieties, so far it was the Dutch Grand Gala that was much sought after. “Now the Indian Himalayan Wonder is ready to be propagated in other parts of the country,” said Dr. Ahuja.