How would you like to see the largest living rose bush? To do that you have to travel to Tombstone and visit the Rose Tree Museum located on 4th St near E. Toughnut St. As the story goes, in 1885 or 86 depending upon who you talk to, a woman by the name of Mary Gee received a rose root from her family in Scotland. They sent it to her with other things so she could have something to remind her of home. The rose root was from The Lady Banks Rose. There is a festival in Tombstone every year to celebrate the Rose Tree during the time that it is in bloom. This year, 2013, the festival runs from April 5 through April 7. Since it did come from root stock that had been in Scotland prior to arriving in Arizona, the plant is over 127 years old. That alone is impressive.
But even more impressive is the size of the rose tree. The main stock is about 12 feet in circumference and is close to 8 feet tall where it branches out. Yes you do walk under it and it covers almost 9000 square feet or a fifth of an acre. That is larger than some house lots at a tract home subdivision in Phoenix. The flowers on the rose tree are small compared to the hybrid tea roses that are available at nurseries today. The pale yellow blossoms bloom only one time during the year during the festival time for about 4 weeks. When the blossoms are finished you have to wait another year before you can see it again. There is a staircase to a viewing platform that allows you to view the top of the rose tree.
The Rose Tree holds the record with the “Guinness’ Book of World Records” which list the rose tree as the largest rose vine in the world. Various pictures of the vine and the blossoms can be seen on the Picture Tombstone website. Purportedly in 1937 the author of “Believe It Or Not” fame, Robert Ripley visited Tombstone and stated that to his knowledge the Rose Tree was the largest rose bush in the world at that time. No one has contested the record holder’s claim. The Lady Banks Rose is actually native to central China where it grows in the mountains. It was brought to England by J. D. Parks and introduced to the London Horticultural Society in 1824.
The Rose Tree Inn Museum is open every day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except on Christmas. Admission is $3. So when you go to see the Rose Tree you should consider staying at Down By The River B and B, located on the San Pedro River in St. David. We are centrally located and are short day trips from all the Cochise County attractions.