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ORRIN MORRIS: Cherokee rose is beautiful to behold but its thorns are torturous

The central theme of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is God's love.The message is that God loves each of us to the highest degree that we humans can understand; that is, every effort to establish fellowship with us is for our well- being.

God wants us to be involved in a loving child-parent relationship, a daily walk in His presence.

That type of relationship existed in the Garden of Eden until our forbearers rebelled against the limits God placed on them. In the Genesis story (3:17-18) God made a pronouncement: "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you."

That pronouncement does not change the message of God's love. In fact, the thorny brambles are an ever-present reminder of how painful rebellion is both to us and to God.

As a child, I wondered why God made mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, thorn bushes, and other annoying and hurtful things. As my mother used to remind us, "If you do not want to get hurt, stay away from the thorns."CHEROKEE ROSE

Rosa laevigataThe Cherokee rose, Georgia's state flower, ironically is a species introduced from China. It escaped cultivation and spread throughout the South. It is a multiflora with blooms that measure about 1 inches in diameter.

The Cherokee rose blooms in the summer, from June to August. The many stamens that form an inner circle are golden yellow, a striking contrast to its white petals.

The most distinguishing characteristic of the Cherokee rose is its leaf structure. Many wild roses have a composite leaf with five to seven leaflets, but this rose has only three, as pictured.

The Cherokee rose and its cousins Rosa multiflora and Rosa bracteata have been planted around yards and in medians of divided highways as a living hedge. Any one of these can form a dense habitat for wildlife.

Farmers in many areas of the South regard them as pests because they have spread into pastures and infringed on usable croplands. All three of these roses have been known to reach 12 to 14 feet high.

The root systems are expansive, ranging both wide and deep. Eradication requires as much effort as it does to eradicate Kudzu.

Once the aggressiveness of these wild roses was recognized, their usefulness was limited. The Cherokee rose seems to have become persona non grata, except as the state flower of Georgia.

For example, in the 30-plus botanical reference books I have in my library, only two note its existence. It is given three sentences in the oldest and largest book published in 1936 and it is a brief aside in the Audubon Society's guide to wildflowers. Even my books on shrubs and trees ignore it.

The Cherokee rose is beautiful to behold but the thorns are torturous. Rebellion against the love that God offers us contains within itself bitterness, anguish, emptiness and hurt, far more severe than rose thorns and venomous snakes.

Trust God's guidance and in childlike faith seek His forgiveness. The very power that breathed life into the Crucified One will give you new life.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.