Harvesting the Rockrose
Like with many other plants, Cistus Ladanifer/Rock Rose should be harvested in the morning. This helps to ensure that the biochemical constituents of the leaves and small branches keep their properties. The ideal time is anywhere between when the dew from the previous night has evaporated and when it is getting to hot to work. Our cistus harvest starts early in the morning with a short drive to a field in the rural outskirts of Aljezur. The tools needed to harvest Cistus Ladanifer are quite simple: a sickle and a pair of gloves. With one hand we hold the aerial parts (leaves and twigs) and with the other we do the cutting. Due to the resin in the plant, after a short time the gloves turn black and the sickle starts accumulating a black gum. This is natural Labdanum and it has a wonderful scent. Labdanum collected this way is free of any chemicals.
The Cistus Ladanifer shrubs we harvest are usually relatively short (between 40 cm and 1 meter in height) and the younger the plants, the shorter they are. But, the younger plants (2-3 years) also produce more fresh leaves and resin. It is thus preferable to harvest the younger plants. This means that harvesting involves a lot of back bending! Add to this the summer heat, rough terrain and insects (bees, wasps and gadflies) and you will realize that harvesting Cistus Ladanifer is hard work…And the problem with Cistus Ladanifer essential oil is, that in order to produce a single liter of it, one needs between 1000 and 2000 Kilo of fresh plant material, depending on the time of year. The yield for steam distilling Cistus Ladanifer Essential oil is very low, around 0,1%. Also, due to the nature of the terrain and the characteristics of the plant, a mechanized harvest is not possible. Producing Cistus Ladanifer Essential oil is thus very work intensive and this explains the high prices for Cistus Oil.
Even though Cistus Ladanifer is very far from being an endangered species, we do our harvesting in a sustainable way. In addition to rotating the fields in which we collect Rock Rose, we also never harvest allleafs&twigs from the plant. This way, Cistus shrubs keep enough leafs to survive and regrow within a few years.
If you should ever harvest Cistus Ladanifer on your own, there is one important safety advice to give: due to the deadly wildfires in 2017, the Portuguese government has increased its efforts in promoting and controlling a proper management of the forests and rural areas; many land owners have been compliant and have cleaned their lands. And lots of these lands are (or were) covered with Cistus Ladanifer. One of the most common way to cut Cistus shrubs is using Brush Cutters. But this method often leaves the root intact and in the ground; and sticking out of it are the sharp remains of the Cistustrunk; always use shoes with a thick and resistant sole or there is a serious risk of injuring your foot.