Archive for 02/04/2013

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The Yellow Tree Peony (Paeonia lutea)

The Yellow Tree Peony (Paeonia lutea)

Paeonia or Peony to give this genus it’s common name,  is native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America. Boundaries between species are not clear and estimates of the number of species range from 25 to 40. Peonies are the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae.


Paeonia 'Itoh'

Paeonia ‘Itoh’

Peonies can be classified by both plant growth habit and flower type. Plant growth types are Herbaceous (nonwoody), Tree (shrub), and Itoh (or “Intersectional”), which is intermediate between herbaceous and tree forms. In winter herbaceous peonies die back to their underground parts, whereas tree peonies lose their leaves but retain viable woody stems above ground. The Itoh hybrids are intermediate between herbaceous and tree forms. They are named after Toichi Itoh, who first produced a successful intersectional hybrid in 1948. The herb Peony (particularly the root of P. lactiflora) has been used frequently in traditional medicines of Korea, China and Japan.

Paeonia 'Rozella'

Paeonia ‘Rozella’

Paeonia 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

The name Paeonia derives form the ancient greek physician, Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of  medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil so Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the Peony flower. Another explanation is that Paeon was the first to use the plant medicinally.

Other garden Paeony names are:

P. albiflora = white – flowered

P. corallina = the colour of coral

P. lutea = yellow

P. moutan = a japanese name derived from Meu-tang, the King of Flowers in chinese myhthology- the ‘Tree Peony’

P. officinalis = of the shop (i.e. was orignally sold in an apothecary/herbal), still found growing wild in Europe. The European or Common Peony. The variety Rubra is the double red peony of cottage gardens


Paeonia officinalis

Paeonia officinalis

Sources and further information:


RHS- cultivating Peonies

Telegraph – how to grow Peonies

Passion for Peonies blogspot


answers to the two clues given in Plantax 8…

  • Irish singer is growing worse – vanilla
  • Tease Mr Disney – ragwort

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Substandard animal limb
  • West Indies batsman + Food superstore

(thanks to Les Palmer, answers in the next Plantax!)

Old School Gardener

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