Refers to the 16thC Rosa damascena and any fragrant rose that is used to make the Attar of Roses perfume.
DNA analysis has recently established that the damask rose evolved as the natural double-crossing of three species: the early Rosa gallica with the musk rose Rosa moschata and then with Rosa fedtschenkoana. As these three do not naturally occupy the same habitat, the hybridisation must have taken place in cultivation, most likely in Central Asia.
Damask roses made their way to Europe through Damascus during the early Middle Ages, when Damascus was a very important trading point.
The Autumn Damask–Rosa damascena bifera–was noted in 16thC Italy as the first repeat flowering rose, until more roses came from the Far East in the 18thC. The French named it ” Quatre Saisons“ and the Italians “la Rosa di Ogni Mese” –the monthly rose.
Both the Bourbon roses (1815) and the Portland rose (1770) are its descendants.