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Rose root.

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Rose root is an adaptogen.

Have you heard about the Finnish lady who, after hearing all the hype about rose root, went and dug up her roses?

The tea wasn't very tasty, and she didn't feel at all more alert on it.

... snigger.

But no, rose root is not the root of roses. It's related to the Sedums, and in fact, it used to be Sedum roseum. Its current name is Rhodiola rosea.

Photo: Rhodiola rosea 14.Pic: Dug-up root, leaf and sliced-up root.

A couple years ago I read this article about rose root in one or the other 'mercan herbal glossy, and whoever wrote the piece hadn't ever even seen rose root. They said the name came from the flower (or whatever) looking like a rose.

Nope. It's the scent of the root, which the name sort of gives away. I've dug up any number of rootlets, and yes, they smell strongly of roses -- after they've been washed.

Strange thing is, though, that the bunch I dug up day before yesterday didn't have any scent at all.

So I'm putting it back to let it grow some more, to see if it's something to do with winter dormancy: the leaves don't hold on to their roots anymore and break off at a brush of a hand, quite unlike rose root leaves in summer.

Remind me to dig it up again to test for that scent, come next summer.

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Rose root is native to northern Finland, but rare (or endangered - doesn't matter, the message being, don't pick it, grow it). It's also native to the Rocky Mountains of the US; there, it's usually still called Sedum roseum.

The roots of rose root grow slowly, so if you want a quick harvest, go for something else. Maral root (Stemmacantha carthamoides) grows fairly fast, even though it's a root crop as well. And of course, nettles go wild all over the place, and the seeds strengthen the adrenals nicely.

Other than that, it's a beauty in the garden, showing off its greenish yellow flowers very early in the year. Pretty!