Debra Prinzing

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Rockin’ in Oklahoma

October 29th, 2007

About a month ago, I gathered with 500 or so of my closest friends to attend the annual Garden Writers Association symposium in Oklahoma City. We were treated to some amazing experiences, including a Country Western jam session under the stars, tours of private and public gardens, great speakers and workshops, lots of new plants, design inspiration and story ideas. And good friends, many of whom I see only once a year. For me, that’s the best part.

There were lots of goodies in our complimentary backpack, a multi-zippered number that sports the logo of Garden Writers Association and Total Environment, an Oklahoma City landscaping firm that sponsored many of our events.

rose rocks

Oklahoma rose rocks, resting on a gravel-lined tray. Nature, elevated to a higher art form.

Tucked inside was the very coolest gift of all. A rock. Yup, an earthy chunk of Oklahoma’s geological history. Round, reddish-brown, and measuring about 2 inches across, the rock was naturally formed and resembles a rose with a swirl of petals around the edges. I am fascinated by this little chip of stone.

“Rose rocks,” we soon learned, are an Oklahoma specialty. I’m so impressed that Oklahoma members of GWA’s host committee hand-collected hundreds of rose rocks to share with us, their visitors. I will cherish this special piece of their world and I can’t resist holding it in my hand and looking at this beautiful natural phenomenon. I just mentioned my fascination with the souvenir rock to a fellow GWA member who clearly wasn’t as excited about it as me. She said, “Oh, when I saw that, I wondered if it was an animal, vegetable or mineral. I thought it was edible.”

Well, my dear, uninitiated, rose rock-ambivalent friend, let me I quote here from the Oklahoma Geological Society brochure that came with our 2-inch specimen:

oklahoma map

“Rose rocks, the reddish-brown sandy crystals of barite that resemble a rose in full bloom, are more abundant in Oklahoma than anywhere else in the world. They have been reported in small quantities in California, Kansas, and Egypt, but are in greatest concentration in the Permian Garber Sandstone in a narrow belt that extends 80 miles through the central part of Oklahoma between Pauls Valley and Guthrie.

“The rose-like appearance of the rock’s petal-shaped clusters is due to the intergrowth of crystals of barite (a mineral compound of barium sulphate, BaSO4) as a cluster of divergent blades. Barite was precipitated in interconnected voids in the rock, probably from barium-rich marine waters that covered the Permian Garber Sandstone during or shortly after its deposition about 250 million years ago.”

So, in other words: a quirk of nature, 250-million years ago, started this geological oddity that surprises us today. Awesome to think about.

Here are some other nifty rose-rock facts:

Most rose rocks are 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter and consist of 5 to 20 radiating plates.

The largest known single rosette is 17 inches across and 10 inches high and weighs 125 pounds.

Clusters of rosettes 38 inches tall and weighing more than 1,000 pounds have been discovered.

Gov. Dewey F. Bartlett declared the rose rock the official Oklahoma state rock in 1968.

We saw some larger rose rocks specimens on display in a few gardens, arranged on trays or in a curio cabinet like a Natural History Museum exhibit. Wow, these are cool. What’s a rock-lovin’ girl to do once she’s back home in LA? Hmmm. You bet. I checked eBay and typed in a search request: “Oklahoma Rose Rocks.” Lucky me, I found someone selling five batches of 2 rocks each and I was able to snap them up (and no, MA, you cannot have them. get your own rocks).

my tray of rose rocks

My little gathering of rose rocks, which for some reason make me very happy. Note the tiny, joined rosette pairs in the lower right

While awaiting my box of of rose rocks to arrive from Susan, the Oklahoma gal who sold them to me over the Internet, we swapped a few emails. I told her how fascinated I was with these perfectly-formed geological specimens. And she shared this funny recollection:

“…by the way, in my younger days, my grandfather used to curse these rose rocks, because they came up all over the place, especially in his rose beds! now people want them! i even have one that is 2 feet around and weighs 28 pounds! in my rose bed!!! thanks so much & God bless you!”

closeup of rose rock

Upon closer inspection, they really do look like roses!

I’m eager to learn lots more about gardening in Oklahoma, especially after spending five days there in late September and early October. Luckily, I have a new guide in Dee Nash, a fellow GWA who shares her experiences living in a log house, gardening in Oklahoma and writing about it at

12 Responses to “Rockin’ in Oklahoma”

  1. Dee Says:

    Hi Debra,

    Thank you for the honorable mention in your post. I’ll try to live up to your kind words. What a good idea to write about rose rocks. Yours look great against the turquoise. I have several in my garden surrounded by a gray-blue sedum.

    I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. We loved having the GWA Symposium, and it was lots of fun sitting with you and your friends on the hay ride (even if hay does work its way through linen slacks.) Must remember, always wear jeans on hay rides. I should know that. I live here!

  2. MA Says:

    WHATTTTTTTTTT? None of those are for me? You are making me crazy just puttin them up there for everyone to see. All fancy on a pretty tray and all. Harummpf. Well, I just happen to know some folks from OKC and they were here for dinner and wanted to know how to repay my incredible kindness and you can guess what I asked for……………

  3. admin Says:

    MA, you are so resourceful….I know you’ll have bucketloads of these rose rocks before I can sneeze. I envision an airplaneful of Oklahoma’s geological heritage heading to Boise. Save one for my Christmas stocking!

  4. David Says:

    Now see, the way I heard it, MA was hoarding those groovy rose rocks to trade sumbuddy for servings of plum tart and other tasty treats, heh, heh, heh.

  5. admin Says:

    Hello rock-lovers: I just received a lovely email from Sharon B., one of the GWA host committee members. Here’s what she had to add to the story mystique (Sharon, you ROCK!):

    I was forwarded a copy of the rose rock article you wrote and was delighted to read it since I was one of the 5 people who collected them. I only heard one other person find pleasure in them and heard no comments from anyone else so I was glad to know two people thought they were great. I wish I had known you were in search of more as I had extras as I am possessor of the extras. I hope no one threw them away.

    Originally I and another gal thought we would have a basket for repossessing them from people who, for whatever reason, weren’t inclined to want them but it is hard to get the message out in such a big group so we just crossed our fingers that none were tossed into the trash. We had to drive quite a distance and sweated a bit on the first day (due to weather conditions) so we didn’t want to think we went to the trouble to make trash fodder.

    The property from which we collected them is owned by the brother of one of our committee members. The guy has boulders with the rose rocks embedded all over. Really wonderful. There are lots of various sizes. I am going to give it a whirl to sell some at plant festivals next year. They are also attractive to use in pots where soil is exposed.

    Sure glad you made it to Oklahoma and that you seemed to have enjoyed it all. We were certainly blessed with good weather for all of the conference. It was too good to be true. I will be very happy to just be “along for the
    ride” next year at the conference.

    See you next year.

  6. Kathy Says:

    I was very happy to get my rose rock, but had no idea they had been collected by the local committee for us. I think it’s great when an area has a local rock. Any of you ever heard of Petoskey stones in Michigan?

  7. The First Day of the GWA Symposium | Cold Climate Gardening Says:

    […] better sense of the area. Once I was back home, the most interesting item I looked over was my free rose rock. Around here, we frequently dig up small shell fossils embedded in rocks, but no rocks naturally […]

  8. Patti Mayeaux Says:

    My daughter just sent me a rose rock for mothers day. I love it!! I live in Louisiana where we do not have many native rocks. she lives in Oklahoma and told me of these special rocks. I will treasure this gift, a rose that will endure forever, never to wilt or fade, just like a mothers love for her daughter.

  9. molly Says:

    I am looking for 3 large rose rocks (baseball size) for christmas presents for my mother, aunt, and sister.
    Anyone have a rec’d on where to purchase?
    Hi Molly, I hate to share my deepest rose rock secrets with you, but here goes: Have you gone onto eBay? I actually searched “Oklahoma Rose Rocks” on eBay and found several. The ones they have are small (1-2 inches in diameter) but the sellers often have more if you write and ask. Good luck!

  10. Jesse L Says:

    I went to Draper lake today during lunch and the Lake level is WAY down ..Some 12 to 15 feet A good place to hunt them is at Point 12 Good luck and good hunting

  11. Steven K Says:

    I have so many rose rocks the literally line my garden beds like lava rocks! Would love to sell! Email Sizes from pea to softball! Can’t guarantee large ones will always be in stock tho.. Intricacy and thinness of petals vary

  12. Garden mementos on the windowsill | Digging Says:

    […] recently, into which I popped a tillandsia; and a pot I bought at Spruce to hold a collection of Oklahoma rose rocks, another gift from Dee six years ago when she came to Austin for the first Garden Bloggers Fling. I […]

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