1. Paeonia Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 530. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 235. 1754.
Peony [Greek Paeon, physician to the gods, who supposedly used the plant medicinally]
Herbs 20-75[-200+] cm, usually rhizomatous and/or roots notably fleshy or thickened. Leaves (excluding clasping, scalelike structures proximal to leaves proper) mostly 5-12 per shoot. Inflorescences: flowers nodding [erect], sometimes surpassed by foliage or individual flower overtopped by ± leaflike bract. Flowers often fragrant, showy; sepals usually persistent, usually green or purplish; petals dark red to purplish, almost black, or maroon to bronze [pink, red, white, yellow], usually with contrasting margins. Follicles usually ± leathery. Seeds relatively large. x = 5.
Species ca. 30 (2 in the flora): w United States, nw Mexico, Eurasia.
Peonies have been cultivated for centuries for horticultural and medicinal uses. Hundreds of "single" and "double" cultivars are available in the horticultural trade. Cultivars of Paeonia lactiflora Pallas (petals mostly white to pink), P. officinalis Linnaeus (follicles tomentose), and P. suffruticosa Andrews (plants ± shrubby) may be found in the flora area as escapes from cultivation.
SELECTED REFERENCE Stern, F. C. 1946. A Study of the Genus Paeonia. London.