Herbal Kids Club: Learning about wild roses.

This week’s Herbal Kids Club class taught us about the wild rose, “queen of the rose family”. The Rose family, also known as Family Rosaceae, is a delicious family to head. It includes apples, strawberries, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, and all kinds of edible fruits. Roses have been loved for longer than homo sapiens have known how to write- archaeologists discovered the fossilized remains of wild roses over 40 million years old. So our exploration of wild roses is also an adventure in natural history.

Rachel showed us that wild roses have five petals. Then everyone chimed in with their thoughts on the qualities of roses. We learned that they are useful as well as beautiful. The rose is relaxing and calming, good for tummy bugs, useful to help dry out and heal sunburns or oozing poison ivy. Roses can also be used to help heal broken hearts, probably through a tea or tincture.

After the kids sat down to sketch the wild rose, Rachel shared the story of how the rose got her thorns. I wish I could recount it word-by-word, but my memory does not always serve my imagination. I’ll do my best to give the gist of Rachel’s tale. The story begins with the love of the native peoples for the wild Rose- a love so ardorous that they ravaged all Rose’s leaves, fruits, flowers, and roots, leaving her no seeds to with which to reproduce. Poor Rose asked Mother Earth to protect her from the over-harvesting of her native lovers. Mother Earth promised that she would do her best. In the meantime, she urged Rose to go ahead and shed her remaining leaves and go to sleep for the Winter. So Rose listened to Mother Earth, shed her leaves, and retired for her winter sleep. When Winter heard of poor Rose’s plight, he told Mother Earth that he might have a solution. And he set about creating new features which would protect Rose come Spring. When Rose rose to meet the spring sun, she discovered that she was covered with icy prickles on her branches and tiny, little prickles along her rosehips. Never again would the natives let their love for Rose diminish her strength because these prickles prevented Rose from greedy hands and over-harvesting. And that’s how the Rose got her thorns.

As we looked at the jagged edges of the leaves, a little insect friend seemed surprised to see us. I never did figure out what sort of critter he might be…. Hopefully, a friend of the rose.

Then the kids picked roses and added them to apple cider vinegar to make a sunburn-soothing spray. Rachel also passed out handfuls of dried red roses for the vinegar- and these dried red roses are slowly turning our vinegar to a warm pink.

One of the most ingenious games for cemeting new knowledge was next on the schedule. Rachel taught the kids to play “Wildcrafter, Wildcrafter”, a cross between chase-and-tag and twenty questions. It’s hard to describe, and I don’t want to reveal any trade secrets, but my kids could not get enough of it. The sounds of “Wildcrafter, Wildcrafter” lit the castle yard with excitement well into the evening.

If you’d like to learn more about the Herbal Kids Club, email Rachel at atinyseed@gmail.com or take a peek at her blog. It’s been a wonderful experience, and the kids look forward to our twice-a-month classes very, very much.

As usual, the learning theme took on its own momentum as the little people decided it was time to scour the cultivated roses in our yard for trimming. Everyone is covered in tiny rose-pricks, but all the pricking must have been worthwhile because the little people secretly procured some vases and moved around the lawn furniture to create a “special resting place for rose fairies on their way to other places”.

Fairies and science, always compatible and happily co-nested in the minds of little people who love learning about the world around them. So cool.

Unfortunately, our online investigations led to the discovery that rose rosette disease has been confirmed in Tuscaloosa County. The virus is transmitted by tiny eriophyid mites that are even smaller than spider mites. While work is being done to develop a lab test to identify rose rosette disease, physical symptoms are the best way to identify rose rosette disease right now. Learn about the symptoms and see some pictures at Backyard Wisdom.

The Family Herbal, Rachel’s blog
Why wild roses have thorns, a legend from the Salteaux (First People)
Max thought the particular wild rose in Rachel’s yard most closely resembled Rosa arvensis.
More rose legends and facts (Interrose)
Rose color-by number page (Raising Our Kids)
Rose coloring page (Activity Village)

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