The genus Rhodiola, treated here as distinct, is included in Sedum by some authors.
The plants treated here as Rhodiola integrifolia Raf., and Rhodiola rosea L., are part of a difficult polymorphic complex growing from the arctic to cool-temperate zones of North America and Eurasia, and also of high mountains further southward. Some authors have included them all in Rhodiola rosea [or Sedum rosea (L.) Scop.], often with subspecies or varieties[
Common Name: Rose Root
Rhodiola rosea is a perennial plant producing a cluster of flowering stems 5 - 40cm tall from an erect or spreading rootstock[
Although not very well known, Rhodiola rosea has a long history of medicinal use and has been shown to be a very effective general tonic for the body. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and a medicine, and also for use as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations. The plant is also grown as an ornamental, where it can be used as a ground cover.
Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and N. America, including Britain, further south on mountains.
Moist, rocky ledges and talus of coastal cliffs in the north and of north-facing cliffs; at elevations up to 1,900 metres[
]. Crevices of mountain rocks and on sea cliffs[
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Rhodiola rosea is a very cold-hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to around -45°c when dormant[
Prefers a fertile well drained open loam in a sunny position[
]. Tolerates fairly damp conditions but prefers a raised well-drained spot[
]. Established plants are drought resistant[
This species is extremely polymorphic[
Plants often self-sow when they are growing in a suitable position[
]. They can self-sow to the point of nuisance[
The dried root has a rose scent[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
The young succulent leaves and shoots are eaten raw or cooked like spinach[
]. A slightly bitter taste, we find them unpleasant on their own though they can be used as a small part of a mixed salad[
]. They can be made into a sauerkraut[
Stems - cooked and eaten like asparagus[
Root - raw or cooked[
]. It was fermented before being eaten by the N. American Indians[
Though little known as a medicinal plant, rose root has been used in traditional European medicine for over three thousand years, mainly as a tonic. Modern research has shown that it increases the body's resistance to any type of stress by regulating the body's hormonal response. Its use has been shown to have a protective effect upon the neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in the brain. It improves neurotransmitter activity by inhibiting their enzymatic destruction and preventing their decline caused by excessive stress hormone release. Rose root also enhances the transport of serotonin's precursors into the brain and studies have shown that use of this herb can increase brain serotonin by up to 30%[
The root is adaptogen. It has an enhancing effect upon physical endurance and sexual potency.
A decoction of the flowers has been used to treat stomach aches and intestinal discomfort[
]. The raw flowers have been eaten in the treatment of tuberculosis[
Plants can be grown as a ground cover when planted about 30cm apart each way[
An extract of the root is used in cosmetic preparations as an antioxidant, astringent and skin conditioner[
The dried root smells strongly of roses. They may be used to distil rose-water[
Seed - surface sow in a sunny position in a greenhouse in spring. Do not let the compost dry out. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in early summer of the following year.
Division in August to early autumn[
]. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.
Cuttings taken in the growing season[
]. Basal shoots in early summer are easiest. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.