eMail from Stephen G. Haw, received July 07th 2000:
Dear Dr. Burkhardt,
P. ludlowii was not in cultivation in Europe or the USA at the time that most of Professor Saunders' hybrids were made. The earlier or later flowering of some of his hybrids can easily be explained by differences in flowering time of P. suffruticosa cultivars used in the hybridisation or differences in flowering period between P. lutea (P. delavayi) and P. suffruticosa.
No argument can possibly overcome the plain fact that Paeonia ludlowii was not available to Professor Saunders! If you want to suggest that he did use P. ludlowii, then you MUST prove first that P. ludlowii was introduced to the USA sufficiently early for Saunders to have used it.
I must point out that, although P. ludlowii was confused with P. lutea until 1951, this was principally because it was virtually unknown outside its native Tibet until after it was introduced into cultivation in Europe.
Although Kingdon Ward collected a specimen of P. ludlowii as early as 1924, his specimen was collected when the plant was in flower, too early for any seed to have been available. In any case, there are good records of Kingdon Ward's plant introductions and it does not appear that he introduced this plant. Had he done so, then it could not have been described as 'new' in 1947.
There is a definite record that Ludlow, Sherriff and Taylor collected seed of what they called 'Paeonia lutea' from south-east Tibet in October 1938. There is definite evidence that plants grown from this seed were flowering by 1947 and that this 'Tibetan form of P. lutea' was recognised as differing in some respects from P. lutea as it had previously been known in cultivation. By 1951 these differences had been formally recognised by the description of a new botanical variety, P. lutea var. ludlowii. The time-scale of these events is absolutely logical - seed sown in 1939 probably did not germinate until 1940 and the seedlings probably would not have flowered until 1943 or 1944 at the earliest. After a couple of years they were described in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. After another few years their differences from P. lutea were considered clear enough for this Tibetan plant to be given formal botanical recognition.
There are absolutely no inconsistencies or difficulties here.
Many of Professor Saunders' hybrids were made during the 1930s, so certainly he could not have used P. ludlowii from Ludlow, Sherriff and Taylor's introduction. I repeat, if you want to show that he might have used P. ludlowii, you MUST prove that the plant was available to him, that is, you must show that it was introduced to the USA some ten years or so before Ludlow, Sherriff and Taylor's introduction. P. ludlowii grows only in south-east Tibet (at least, there are no records of it occurring naturally anywhere else) and very few people collected plants in the area where it grows prior to the 1950s (not very many have collected there even now). Very few Westerners even passed through the area before the 1950s. Earlier introduction seems highly unlikely to me.
Stephen G. Haw.