The peony or paeony (Paeonia) is the only genus in the flowering plant family Paeoniaceae. They are native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America.
Most are herbaceous perennial plants 0.5–1.5 metres tall, but some are woody shrubs up to 1.5–3 metres tall. They have compound, deeply lobed leaves, and large, often fragrant flowers, ranging from red to white or yellow, in late spring and early summer. In the past, the peonies were often classified in the family Ranunculaceae, alongside Hellebores and Anemones.
The peony is named after Paeon or Paean, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil; Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.
Symbolism and uses
The peony is among the longest-used flowers in ornamental culture and is one of the smallest living creature national emblems in China. Along with the plum blossom, it is a traditional floral symbol of China. It is also known as fuguihua "flower of riches and honour", and is used symbolically in Chinese art. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty declared the peony as the national flower. Currently, the Republic of China on Taiwan designates the plum blossom as the national flower, while the People's Republic of China has no legally designated national flower. In 1994, the peony was proposed as the national flower after a nationwide poll, but the National People's Congress failed to ratify the selection. In 2003, another selection process has begun, but to date, no choice has been made.
The famous ancient Chinese city Luoyang has a reputation as a cultivation centre for the peonies. Throughout Chinese history, peonies in Luoyang are often said to be the finest in the country. Dozens of peony exhibitions and shows are still held there annually.
In 1957, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to make the peony the state flower of Indiana, a title which it holds to this day. It replaced the zinnia, which had been the state flower since 1931.
Mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the Peony thus causing this magnificent flower to be given the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. It was named after Pæon, a physician to the gods, who obtained the plant on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. Once planted the Peony likes to be left alone and punishes those who try to move it by not flowering again for several years. Once established, however, it produces splendid blooms each year for decades.
Peonies are also extensively grown as ornamental plants for their very large, often scented flowers.
Peonies tend to attract ants to the flower buds. This is due to the nectar that forms on the outside of the flower buds.
Peonies are a common subject in tattoos, often used along with koi-fish.
Paeonia brownii (Brown's Peony or Native Peony), is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Paeoniaceae, native to the western United States, growing in dry sagebrush and Ponderosa Pine country. It is 24-50 cm tall with flowers of a dark maroon opening to 2-3 cm. Flowering April to June followed by a long dormancy.
Paeonia californica (California Peony or Wild Peony) is one of two species of Peony native to the North America. It is endemic to southwest California, United States, where it grows on dry hillsides in the coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities of the coastal mountains of Southern and Central California, often as an understory plant. The California Peony has entered limited cultivation in native landscaping and xeriscaping. It is drought tolerant and is moisture sensitive in the summer, when its swollen root will rot if watered. It prefers partial sun and tolerates a variety of soil types. Deer seem to avoid eating this plant.
Paeonia lactiflora, or Chinese Peony is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Paeoniaceae, native to central and eastern Asia from eastern Tibet across northern China to eastern Siberia. It is about 60-100 cm tall with large compound leaves 20-40 cm long. The flower buds are large and round, opening into large flowers 8-16 cm diameter, with 5-10 white, pink, or crimson petals and yellow stamens. It is used a medicinal herb in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also widely grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, with several hundred selected cultivars; many of the cultivars have double flowers, with the stamens modified into additional petals.
Paeonia mascula - The Wild Peony also known as the Male or Balkan Peony and sometimes referred to by the synonym Paeonia corallina is a species of peony. A herbaceous perennial plant 0.5–1.5 metres tall, the Wild Peony has leaves which are divided into three segments and large red flowers in late spring and early summer. Native to China, Europe, Morocco, Spain and Turkey this wild peony has become naturalised on two small islands in the UK.
Paeonia mlokosewitschii (Golden Peony or Caucasian Peony) is a species of peony, native to the Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Dagestan, where it grows on rocky slopes in oak, hornbeam, or beech forests.
Paeonia obovata (woodland peony)
Paeonia peregrina is a herbaceous plant species native from Southeastern Europe and Western Asia in Turkey.
Paeonia rockii - Rock's Peony (tree peony) is a woody species of peony, named after Joseph Rock. It is native to the mountains of western China, mainly in Gansu and adjoining provinces. This tree peony is cultivated as an ornamental plant. It is very frost hardy and resistant to fungal diseases, and is grown in Europe, particularly in northern countries, such as Sweden and Finland. In Germany it is the most hardy tree peony species.
European Peony - Paeonia officinalis
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