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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Paeonia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2020-10-27.


  • Paeoniaceae

Common Names

  • Paeony


Traditional English name for the formerly independent state known to its people as Bod now the Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. The name Xizang is used in lists of Chinese provinces.
Attached singly along the axis not in pairs or whorls.
A group of genera more closely related to each other than to genera in other families. Names of families are identified by the suffix ‘-aceae’ (e.g. Myrtaceae) with a few traditional exceptions (e.g. Leguminosae).
Dry dehiscent fruit containing numerous seeds derived from a single carpel.
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
Small grains that contain the male reproductive cells. Produced in the anther.
(sect.) Subdivision of a genus.
Classification usually in a biological sense.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Paeonia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2020-10-27.

A genus composed mainly of herbaceous perennials, but including the four woody species treated here. These constitute the section Moutan, which is confined to W. China and S.E. Tibet.

The genus Paeonia, long included in the family Ranunculaceae, is now placed in a separate family, of which it is the only genus. Leaves alternate, deeply divided. Flowers large and showy; sepals five, persistent; petals normally five, sometimes ten (and often very numerous in garden varieties); stamens very numerous, the anthers dehiscing centrifugally, i.e., the innermost shedding their pollen first (in the Ranunculaceae it is the other way about); carpels fleshy, up to five in number, free from one another, each developing into a follicle containing a few large arillate seeds. In Paeonia (but not in the Ranunculaceae) a disk is present at the centre of the flower. In P. suffruticosa this is very developed, forming an envelope round the carpels, while in other species of the section Moutan it forms a lobed, fleshy structure at the base of the carpels.

For the propagation of the garden varieties and hybrids see p. 83. Division is the best means of increasing P. potaninii, while P. lutea and its variety, and P. delavayi are usually propagated by seeds. If these are sown as soon as they are ripe in early autumn, there is a good chance that they will germinate the following spring, without artificial heat or any special treatment. The seed is otherwise best kept cool and dry, and sown in the spring or early summer; it will then germinate in the spring following. The explanation for this procedure is that root-germination takes place in warmth, but the embryonic shoot remains dormant until the seed has undergone a period of low temperature, which is only effective after the period of warmth.

The standard work on the taxonomy of the paeonies is: F. C. Stern, A Study of the Genus Paeonia (1946). Other useful works are: M. Haworth-Booth, The Moutan or Tree Paeony (1963); J. C. Wister, ‘The Moutan Tree Peony’, in Peonies: The Manual of the American Peony Society (1928); J. C. Wister and H. E. Wolfe, ‘The Tree Peonies’, in Nat. Hort. Mag. (1955), Vol. 34, pp. 1-61.


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