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definitions - Peony

peony (n.)

1.any of numerous plants widely cultivated for their showy single or double red or pink or white flowers

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Merriam Webster

PeonyPe"o*ny (pē"�*n�), n.; pl. Peonies (pē"�*nĭz). [OE. pione, pioine, pioni, OF. pione, F. pivoine, L. paeonia, Gr. paiwni`a, fr. Pai`wn, Paia`n, the god of healing. Cf. Pæan.] (Bot.) A plant, and its flower, of the ranunculaceous genus Pæonia. Of the four or five species, one is a shrub; the rest are perennial herbs with showy flowers, often double in cultivation. [Written also pæony, and piony.]

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synonyms - Peony

peony (n.)



analogical dictionary



Paeonia suffruticosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Paeoniaceae
Genus: Paeonia

Peony or paeony is a name for plants in the genus Paeonia, the only genus in the flowering plant family Paeoniaceae. They are 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 [1] to 40.[2]

Most are herbaceous perennial plants 1.5 - 5 feet (0.5 - 1.5 metres) tall, but some resemble trees up to 5 - 10 feet (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.



  Peony close-up

The peony is named after Paeon (also spelled 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.[3]

The family name "Paeoniaceae" was first used by Friedrich K.L. Rudolphi in 1830, following a suggestion by Friedrich Gottlieb Bartling that same year.[1] The family had been given other names a few years earlier.[4] The composition of the family has varied, but it has always consisted of Paeonia and one or more genera that are now placed in Ranunculales.[2] It has been widely believed that Paeonia is closest to Glaucidium, and this idea has been followed in some recent works.[1][5] Molecular phylogenetic studies, however, have demonstrated conclusively that Glaucidium belongs in Ranunculaceae,[6] but that Paeonia belongs in the unrelated order Saxifragales.[7]


  A cultivated hybrid peony

Peonies can be classified by both plant growth habit and flower type. Plant growth types are Herbaceous (Bush), Tree, and Intersectional (Itoh).

Each flower type becomes more complex in its arrangement of petals. The flower types include Single (e.g., Athena, Dad, Krinkled White, Scarlet O’Hara, Sea Shell), Japanese (Nippon Beauty, Madame Butterfly), Anemone, Semi-Double (Paula Fay, Coral Charm, Miss America, Buckeye Belle), Double (Ann Cousins, Gardenia, Kansas, Paul M. Wild, Tourangelle) and Bomb-Double (Red Charm, Raspberry Sundae, Mons Jules Elie). Herbaceous peonies die back in winter and regrow in spring, while tree peonies lose their leaves in winter, but leave woody stems.

Intersectional (Itoh) peonies are hybrid crosses between tree and herbaceous types. They have the large flowers of a tree peony, but die back to the ground each year like herbaceous peonies. [8]

  Chemistry and biological activities

Over 262 compounds have been obtained so far from the plants of Paeoniaceae. These include monoterpenoid glucosides, flavonoids, tannins, stilbenoids, triterpenoids and steroids, paeonols, and phenols.
Biological activities include antioxidant, antitumor, antipathogenic, immune-system-modulation activities, cardiovascular-system-protective activities and central-nervous-system activities.[9]

The herb known as Paeonia (Bai Shao, Radix Paeoniae Lactiflorae), in particular the root of Paeonia lactiflora has been used frequently in traditional medicines of Korea, China and Japan. Research suggests that constituents in Paeonia lactiflora - paeoniflorin and paeonol - can modulate IgE-induced scratching behaviors and mast cell degranulation. [10]


  Paeonia caucasica
  Fruit of Paeonia suffruticosa

Herbaceous and Itoh peonies are propagated by root division, and sometimes by seed. Tree peonies can be propagated by grafting, division, seed, and from cuttings, although root grafting is most common commercially. [11]


  Symbolism and uses

  In this gold-engraved lacquerware food tray from the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the two long-tailed birds represent longevity, and the peony seen at the top center represents prosperity
  Peony, by Chinese artist Wang Qian, Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)
  Portrait of a peony by Chinese artist Yun Shouping, 17th century

The peony is among the longest-used flowers in Eastern 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, where the Paeonia suffruticosa is called 牡丹 (mǔdān). It is also known as 富贵花 (fùguìhuā) "flower of riches and honour," and is used symbolically in Chinese art.[13] 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 ancient Chinese city Luoyang has a reputation as a cultivation centre for the peonies. Throughout Chinese history, peonies in Luoyang have been said to be the finest in the country. Dozens of peony exhibitions and shows are still held there annually.

In Japan, Paeonia lactiflora used to be called ebisugusuri ("foreign medicine"). Pronunciation of 牡丹 (peony) in Japan is "botan." In kampo (the Japanese adaptation of Chinese medicine), its root was used as a treatment for convulsions. It is also cultivated as a garden plant. In Japan Paeonia suffruticosa is called the "King of Flowers" and Paeonia lactiflora is called the "Prime Minister of Flowers."[14]

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, giving it the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. While the peony takes several years to re-establish itself when moved, it blooms annually for decades once it has done so.[15]

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, and is not required for the plants' own pollination or other growth.[16]

Peonies are a common subject in tattoos, often used along with koi-fish. The popular use of peonies in Japanese tattoo was inspired by the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi's illustrations of the Suikoden, a serialized novel from China. His paintings of warrior-heroes covered in pictorial tattoos included lions, tigers, dragons, koi fish, and peonies, among other symbols. The peony became a masculine motif, associated with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.



  1. ^ a b c Josef J. Halda and James W. Waddick. 2004. The genus Paeonia. Timber Press: Oregon, USA.
  2. ^ a b Michio Tamura. 2007. "Paeoniaceae". pages 265-269. In: Klaus Kubitski (editor). The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants volume IX. Springer-Verlag: Berlin;Heidelberg, Germany.
  3. ^ Flowers in Greek Mythology, VALENTINE floral creations. Accessed 23 June 2008.
  4. ^ James L. Reveal. 2008 onward. "A Checklist of Family and Suprafamilial Names for Extant Vascular Plants." At: Home page of James L. Reveal and C. Rose Broome. (see External links below).
  5. ^ David J. Mabberley. 2008. Mabberley's Plant-Book.Cambridge University Press: UK.
  6. ^ Wei Wang, An-Ming Lu, Yi Ren, Mary E. Endress, and Zhi-Duan Chen. 2009. "Phylogeny and Classification of Ranunculales: Evidence from four molecular loci and morphological data". Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11(2):81-110.
  7. ^ Shuguang Jian, Pamela S. Soltis, Matthew A. Gitzendanner, Michael J. Moore, Ruiqi Li, Tory A. Hendry, Yin-Long Qiu, Amit Dhingra, Charles D. Bell, and Douglas E. Soltis. 2008. "Resolving an Ancient, Rapid Radiation in Saxifragales". Systematic Biology 57(1):38-57. (see External links below).
  8. ^ Rogers, Allen (2004). Peonies. Timber Press. 
  9. ^ He, C.-N., Peng, Y., Zhang, Y.-C., Xu, L.-J., Gu, J. and Xiao, P.-G. (2010), Phytochemical and Biological Studies of Paeoniaceae. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 7: 805–838. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200800341
  10. ^ Lee B, Shin YW, Bae EA, Han SJ, et.al., effect of the root of Paeonia lactiflora and its constituents paeoniflorin and paeonol, Arch Pharm Res. 2008 Apr;31(4):445-50. PMID 18449501.
  11. ^ Coit, J. Eliot (1908). "Peony". Bulletin (Cornell University) 259: 104. http://books.google.com/books?id=q4USAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA104&dq=propagate+tree+peony+division&hl=en&ei=YsnvTbHgFIu0sAOnrbSICA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CE0Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=propagate%20tree%20peony%20division&f=false. 
  12. ^ http://livinginseason.blogspot.com/2006/06/peony-most-beautiful.html
  13. ^ Terese Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art (San Francisco: Asian Art Museum/Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture), 2006.
  14. ^ Sasaki, Sanmi. 2005. Chado: The Way of Tea: A Japanese Tea Master's Almanac. Translated from the Japanese by Shaun McCabe and Iwasaki Satoko. Boston: Tuttle. Page 247.
  15. ^ The Language of Flowers, edited by Sheila Pickles, 1990
  16. ^ "HPS Frequently Asked Questions: Ants of Peonies". Heartland Peony Society. http://www.peonies.org/cgi-bin/faqindex.cgi. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 

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