The first - and hopefully last - serious encounter I had with the
"prickles" on Othello caused such a rip of skin that I have pussyfooted
around this rose ever since. The prickles are massive, sharp, and
firmly attached to the heavy canes - my tender skin was simply no match
for this monster.
In fact, the use of the term "prickles" for what Othello comes armed with really borders on the ludicrous. In the interior of a plant stem are the vascular tissues - the plant's circulatory system. On the exterior are the dermal tissues - the skin. From a botanical perspective, a thorn is a modified branch which contains xylem and phloem - the plant's vascular tissues. Thus, a thorn is an outgrowth of the interior of the stem.
A prickle is part of the external portion of the stem - a dermal appendage which lacks vascularity. This is easily demonstrated with rose "thorns". Give them a little sideways pressure and they pop right off. So the armor of roses are properly called prickles.
But we also hear such words in a non-botanical, more emotional context - the connotation of the word, as opposed to the denotation - the literal meaning. A prickle sounds to us like a minor irritation, and a thorn sounds like something more serious. There is nothing about these appendages on Othello which one should not take seriously.
Many rose prickles are flexible, and many pop off of the stems quite easily. These are rigid, thick, and strongly attached. When one snags one's own dermis on these dermal appendages, there is simply no doubt about the "winner".
Fortunately, Othello is also a winner in my garden in much more positive ways. It is a dramatic and very beautiful plant when the location has been well chosen, providing a focal point of both color and structure. And evidently, I am not alone in this assessment - at one time David Austin had moved Othello to his list of superseded roses. He has since reevaluated and once again offers Othello as part of his US Main Collection of English Roses.
Othello Rose Bush.File#d2617
Finally this shot of an Othello rose bush, taken one
lovely misty morning in Dianne and Ross King's garden in the Sierra foothills.