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Marchesa Boccella vs Jacques Cartier

By Dr. Charles A. Walker, Jr.


The American Rose Annual 1996


Dr. Charles A. Walker, Jr., president of The Heritage Rose Foundation, is an avid student of the older varieties and species roses. He has grown and researched them since 1972 and has amassed a rose library collection of some 1,000 items. His background in mathematics, genetics and genealo6y has provided useful tools for exploring the literature and assessing its potential to help identify roses whose names have been lost or confused His doctoral research centered on the Rosa laevigata (Cherokee Rose), whose history a d genetic diversity in the southeastern United States had not been previously investigated A Life member of ARS, he has served on its Registration and Classification Committees and assisted in the preparation ofModern Roses 9.




For many years, the same rose has been sold, grown, and exhibited as both Marquise Boçella (1842) and Jacques Cartier (1868). It has been the subject of much discussion in ARS circles, since the former rose is eligible for the ARS Dowager Queen award, while the latter is not. Given this confusion, many growers and exhibitors have understandably asked, "Why does this rose have two names, and which one is the right one?" The following notes are in response to the editor's request for clarification on this matter.


To assist the reader in understanding the information about Marchesa Boccella and Jacques Cartier found in the old literature, chronological summaries are given in Tables 1 and 2 below. Simultaneously, these provide a glimpse of the limitations of this material for truly identifying roses, an issue to be addressed below. Relevant material presented in Heritage Rose Foundation News, October 1989, and January 1990, as well as more recently acquired information is summarized here for the benefit of ARS exhibitors, judges, and others with an interest in these two rose names.


The name Marchesa Boccella


Several versions of this name have been found, two of which are of particular interest to ARS members: Marquise Bocella (listed in Modem Roses editions 4 through 7) and Marquise Boçella (edition 8). After consulting with Mrs. Janine Breitenberger and Mrs. Fausto Cucchi, natives of France and Italy, respectively, and conducting a lengthy search of the literature during the preparation of Modem Roses 9, I learned that the name 'Boçella' was both misspelled and incorrectly marked. Although appearing to be French, it is actually a corruption of the Italian word Boccella. As Mrs. Breitenberger pointed out, there is no need for the comma-like cedilla beneath the c, since it is used to indicate an s sound for that letter only when it precedes the vowels a, o, or u. When preceding e, c is pronounced as s anyway, making the cedilla redundant. This erroneous diacritical marking seems to have arisen with American nurseryman Samuel B. Parsons, who used it his book The Rose (1847); no other 19th-century source for it has been found. The error was apparently recognized and was not included in the fourth through the seventh editions of Modem Roses. Yet it was inexplicably inserted into Modem Roses 8.


Mrs. Cucchi noted that for the name to be correct Italian, the first word should be 'Marchesa,' not 'Marquise.' A search of the earliest relevant literature corroborated her point. The name Marchesa Roccella appears in an illustrated note about this rose dated I July 1845 and published in 1855. Here Marchesa Boccella appears as the caption of the illustration but, oddly, the name Marquise de Boccella appears in the accompanying text on a separate page, obviously the author's translation of the name into his own language. This illustration, presented in Phillip Robinson's lecture on hybrid perpetuals at the Symposium of The Heritage Rose Foundation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1990, was photographed by Barbara Worl from the rare book Choix des Plus Belles Roses (1855). It is reproduced, probably for the first time, on page 96 for those who wish to compare it with the rose now being grown as both Marchesa Boccella and Jacques Cartier. An annotated translation of the accompanying French description, organized by topic, appears in the 1855 entry in Table 1.


The spelling Marchesa Boccella also appears in the Annales de la Société Centrale d’Horticulture de France in 1850, 1851, and 1852. Based on what is known at present, the oldest name and hence the one to be used, is Marchesa Boccella, not the long-used Marquise Bocella or the more recently resurrected error Marquise Boçella. Prior to the publication of Modem Roses 9, this determination had not been made, so the name Marquise Boccella was retained but was corrected to Marchesa Boccella in Modem Roses 10. Priority considerations aside, it is more appropriate to use a linguistically consistent name rather than one drawn from different languages.


Were the two roses originally distinct?


In modern times these two names have been published in rose catalogs and elsewhere in ways intended to convey to prospective growers that the same rose is being sold under both. However helpful this has been, it has also left the impression that the roses were originally synonymous, but the literature available to date has not revealed any evidence that they were. No hint is given that Jacques Cartier might have been a renamed reintroduction of Marchesa Boccella. Instead, the records provide a basis for arguing that they were distinct.


Writing in 1848 (Table 1), British nurseryman William Paul seems to have regarded Marchesa Boccella quite favorably ("beautiful, very sweet"), yet 15 years later (1863) he was less complimentary ("second rate"). His change in attitude undoubtedly reflects evolving rose fashion and not a change in this particular rose. Thus, if in 1863 Marchesa Boccella was already going out of style, it does not seem reasonable that a nurseryman would have had anything to gain by reintroducing it as a new rose in 1868. Furthermore, such a reintroduction would likely have been detected andcommented upon. For example, the American horticultural literature circa          1858 contains several strongly worded claims and counterclaims regarding a purportedly new noisette rose Augusta, which was said to be identical to Solfaterre, introduced 15 years earlier. And, in our own time, many remember the controversy concerning the hybrid tea introduced as both Uncle Joe and Toro. Based on the evidence available at present, it appears that the roses Marchesa Boccella and Jacques Cartier were originally distinct. However, if Jacques Cartier were proven to be a reintroduction of Marchesa. Boccella, then the problem would be resolved instantly; Jacques Cartier would simply be its synonym.


Horticultural classifications


It is informative to examine the classes to which these two roses have been assigned over the years. The currently grown rose has a prominent characteristic of the portland class - a very short peduncle which forces the flower down onto the uppermost leaves. This may contribute to its current popularity for exhibition, since its flower is attractively framed by foliage. It has been argued that since this rose has this portland trait, Jacques Cartier (classed as a portland) is more likely to be its true name than Marchesa Boccella, which was classed as a hybrid perpetual. However, Table I shows that those French sources that specified a class (1851 and 1855) considered Marchesa. Boccella (a French origination) as a portland or hybrid portland, while the English-speaking authors dubbed it a hybrid perpetual or remontant (although the latter term was used by some to encompass what we now call portlands). In sharp contrast, Table 2 shows that Jacques Cartier was classed as a hybrid perpetual or hybrid remontant until 1906, when Simon & Cochet changed its classification from hybrid remontant to portland. The reason for this change is not known; no earlier classification of it as a portland has yet been found. Could the confusion between Marchesa Boccella and Jacques Cartier have already taken place by 1906? It is clear from its 1855 illustration that Marchesa Boccella had the characteristic portland appearance, and it was specifically described as such in that year.


Which, if either, name is the correct one?


This is a far tougher question to answer. It has been common practice when attempting to identify old roses whose names have been lost to compare various descriptions from the literature and to choose the one that fits best. However logical this process may appear to be, it often leads to contradictory results when used by different individuals (and years may pass before the ensuing problems in nomenclature surface). This is due to the fact that the rose literature rarely mentions the characteristics necessary to distinguish conclusively among similar roses; in the great majority of cases, there are only sketchy descriptions, written in most cases by nurserymen whose intent was to sell roses. True identification was not a necessity in their books or catalogs.


By comparing the entries in Tables I and 2, one might be tempted to say that these two roses can be distinguished based on their color. Marchesa Boccella was variously seen as pale blush, pale rose, delicate pink, pale silvery blush, pale pink, flesh- or carnation-colored, flesh-rose, and creamy white, flesh-colored rose with a rosy blush center. Jacques Cartier (mentioned by far fewer authors) was deemed clear (or light or bright) rose ( (or pink), with a deeper center. However, considering these ambiguities, both roses could well be described using the same color - light pink. Given the difference that climate and culture can produce in the color of a rose and that human subjectivity can give to color description, I do not see how these historical records can provide an objective separation of the two roses based on color.


Another comparison might be attempted with flower size. Marchesa Boccella was described as large by those sources that mention a size, except for Singer (1885) and Jäger (1936), who said medium and medium to large, respectively. However, since Jacques Cartier was also listed as large, size is not useful, especially in view of the fact that it, too, can vary with environmental influences.


Can plant vigor be used for comparison? Marchesa Boccella was described by Rivers 1846(a) - see table p.99 - and others as robust, while Hibberd (1882) and later authors described Jacques Cartier as vigorous. Paul (1848) specified his meaning of robust, but none of the other authors defined their terms, so an objective comparison cannot be made, especially since these two words are oft used synonymously. And vigor also varies with environment.


On the other hand, it must be noted that consistency in description from one writer to another is often misleading; it does not necessarily indicate agreement based on their independent observations. In the rose literature, such apparent consensus is very often due to one writer's appropriation or compilation of others' descriptions, perhaps without any firsthand observation of the rose at all. For example, compare the text of The Rose Amateur's Guide by Thomas Rivers (1843 and 1846 editions) with that of Prince's Manual of Roses by William Robert Prince (1846). For a more detailed view, compare the descriptions in Simon & Cochet's list with those in the references they consulted.


In summary, horticultural classification, color, size and vigor, as they are given in the literature examined so far, are all inadequate to determine whether Marchesa Boccella or Jacques Cartier is the correct name for the rose we now grow. Nevertheless, several observations can be made.


Perhaps the strongest evidence against Jacques Cartier is the argument derived from Paul's change in attitude toward Marchesa Boccella, presented above (i.e., the implausibility of an old-style rose being newly introduced in 1868, hence the improbability of Jacques Cartier as its true name). Additional evidence is the mention (1936) that the petals of Jacques Cartier have white undersides, a trait apparently absent in the rose currently bearing this name.


On the other side of the scale, strong evidence in favor of Marchesa Boccella is exhibited by the illustration in Choix des Plus Belles Roses. Both this and its accompanying detailed description show remarkable similarity to the rose now grown. It is difficult to imagine an illustration or substantial description of Jacques Cartier (none of which has yet surfaced) that would fit the rose better; in fact, the argument against the newly introduced old-style rose also argues against the existence of such an illustration. Therefore, on balance, the information found in the literature so far points to Mambesa Boccella as the more likely name for the rose grown today.


However, it must be noted that nothing has been found that would require that the true name be one of the two; it may be neither. Nevertheless, given that the rose has been labeled with these two disparate identities for a very long time, it seems more prudent to retain one of them, even though that identity cannot be proven, than to discard them both and search for another.


How did the mix-up occur?


What may come as a surprise to many people is that not all of the old garden roses have been handed down to us with their names intact. Many went out of commerce (and subsequently their names were lost) when newer roses became more popular with the public, just as older hybrid teas and miniatures are discarded nowadays in favor of newer ones. To gain an appreciation of some of the invaluable efforts that have gone toward rescuing certain of the older roses and restoring their names, read, for example, Old Roses (1935) by Mrs. F. L. Keays and The Old Shrub Roses (1963) by G. S. Thomas, who incidentally, obtained Jacques Cartier from the well- known collection at Roseraie de I'Hay. If the notation in Jäger's book (1936) is correct, neither Jacques Cartier nor Marchesa Boccella was growing in the famous Rosarium at Sangerhausen, Germany, in 1936, but they were listed there in 1976. Perhaps one or the other arrived as a "mystery' rose and was subsequently labeled with one of the names in an attempt to identify it. On the other hand, the name(s) may have been attached at Roseraie de I'Hay, in some other garden, or nursery. Given the length of time that the confusion has persisted, it seems improbable that its history will ever be unraveled or that the rose's identity will be resolved. In identifying old varieties of roses (and other plants) or retaining a long-used name, personal opinion has often seemed a stronger deciding factor than pertinent information from historical records.


For the future


There is a lesson to be learned both here and other rose identity muddles: hasty identification is very























































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