SUN ROSES (Cistus) are a group of about 20 conspicuous and colorful shrubs that grow wild in the maquis of the Mediterranean, often with Tree Heather, Myrtle and Lentisc, and as the understorey in dry, open pine woods. The leaves are in opposite pairs, and are often sticky, in some species exuding a fragrant gum, ‘ladanum’, which is used in perfumery and medicine. The flowers have five brightly-coloured but short-lived petals and a central boss of numerous yellow or orange stamens.
CISTUS MONSPELIENSIS / An aromatic, sticky bush up to 1 metre high with white petals and lance-shaped to linear leaves, green above, but densely felted below.
CISTUS ALBIDUS / This has less narrow leaves, densely grey-felted on both sides, and purple flowers. Barely aromatic.
CISTUS LADANIFER / Reaches 2.5 metres in height. Solitary rather than clustered flowers (up to 10cm across), with or without the crimson marking at the base of each petal. The branches and lance-shaped leaves are sticky and aromatic.
Trees and shrubs of the Mediterranean by Helge Vedel, translated from the Danish by Aubrey Rush (Penguin Guides, 1978), p45.