Around the Nation
4:18 am
Wed April 16, 2014

'World's Largest Rosebush' Graces Arizona Desert Town

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 3:33 pm

Just a few blocks from the OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., a former hotel and boarding house hides a treasure.

A sign in front says "World's Largest Rosebush," but most people have no sense of its size until they walk through the building and into the backyard.

The bush, a Lady Banksia Rose, was planted in 1885, back when Tombstone was a boomtown for silver mining. The tree officially covers 9,000 square feet, and its gnarled trunk is about 12 feet around. The whole thing is so big that its branches have to be supported on a massive trellis, which spreads out horizontally.

The Devere family has owned the property, which is now a museum, since 1916. Dorothy Devere and her husband, Burt, took it over in the early 1990s. They built a platform with steps so people could see the blanket of blooms from above. Right now, thousands of white flowers are giving off a scent reminiscent of violets.

"Sometimes I think I'm a little jaded," says Dorothy Devere, "and then I'll be up here and someone will come out here and say, 'Oh, my goodness, it's so beautiful.' And I'm thinking: How nice that they like the rosebush."

Especially this time of year. Blooming season lasts about six weeks — and it's almost always in bloom for Easter Sunday.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The world's largest rose bush: You might think it's on some English estate or something. Nope, it's in Tombstone, Arizona. And you need to see this thing. It's really big.

Our correspondents have been sending in their pics for spring break destinations. NPR's Ted Robbins takes us to the roses.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Just a few blocks from the OK Corral in Tombstone, a former hotel and boarding house hides a treasure. A sign in front says: World's Largest Rose Bush. But most people have no sense of its size until they walk through the building and into the backyard.

Maria Trunk and her family are visiting Arizona from Washington, D.C.

MARIA TRUNK: We didn't have any mental image of how it would be so shady and cool under here. We didn't know how it would be at all, and we just had to come and find out about it.

ROBBINS: The Tombstone rose tree officially covers 9,000 square feet. That's larger than a Major League Baseball diamond. The tree's gnarled trunk is about 12-feet around. The whole thing is so big, that its branches have to be supported on a massive trellis, which spreads out horizontally.

Dorothy Devere and her husband Burt own the place. She says they have to cut the tree back to keep it from damaging its surroundings.

DOROTHY DEVERE: This building is so old, that it's a constant battle to keep it in shape.

ROBBINS: The buildings date from 1885, the same year the rose bush was planted. Back then, Tombstone was a boom town for silver mining. A woman named Amelia Adamson ran the hotel and boarding house when Henry Gee, a supervisor at a nearby mine, brought his new bride Mary from Scotland to stay here.

DEVERE: She and Mrs. Adamson became very good friends. And, of course, she thought the desert was quite barren. And she would write these letters home.

ROBBINS: Then, one day, the story goes, a trunk arrived.

DEVERE: And in it were several cuttings of this bush. And so she gave one to Mrs. Adamson, and Mrs. Adamson planted it here.

ROBBINS: It's a Lady Banksia Rose, with blossoms of the size of tea roses. It must have been hard to get the plant going in the poor soil, but once the bush established itself, its roots sought water in nearby mine shafts. It grew and grew. The Devere family has owned the property since 1916. Burt and Dorothy Devere took it over in the early 1990s. They turned the hotel into a museum and built a platform with steps so people could see the blanket of blooms from above.

Right now, thousands of white flowers are giving off a scent reminiscent of violets.

TRUNK: How often do you water it?

DEVERE: Well, during this time of year, once a week, and we turn on the water on at five o'clock in the evening, and the next morning, at nine o'clock, it shuts off.

ROBBINS: Dorothy Devere isn't here every day. After all, she's seen the rose tree for decades.

DEVERE: Sometimes I think I'm a little jaded. And then I'll be up here, and someone will come out here and say: Oh, my goodness. It's so beautiful. And I'm thinking how nice that they...

(LAUGHTER)

DEVERE: ...like the rose bush. You know?

ROBBINS: Especially this time of year. Blooming season lasts about six weeks, and it's almost always in bloom for Easter Sunday.

Ted Robbins, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.