From Rosa gallica, a species indigenous to central and southern Europe including France – hence gallica, meaning ‘of Gaul’.
Natural variation gave rise to forms with a few extra petals, of which the best known is R. gallica ‘Officinalis’, called the ‘Provins Rose’ after the town to the south-east of Paris where it has been grown commercially for cosmetic, medicinal and culinary purposes since the late 13th century. ‘Officinalis’ indicates its use by pharmacists – hence another common name ‘The Apothecary’s Rose’. In 13th century England it was adopted as the royal badge of the House of Lancaster.
Around 1500 a ‘sport’ (natural mutant) of this rose bearing striped petals occurred, Rosa gallica ‘Versicolor’, also known as ‘Rosa Mundi’, which is still one of the most popular striped garden roses.
Early in the 19th century, French nurserymen bred and introduced a range of hybrids and selections of Rosa gallica. Some of these are still available today, and popular as garden roses.