Paeonia mascula Miller ssp. hellenica var.hellenica (Tzanoudakis) Stearn & Davis

Kifissia, Greece: Goulandris Natural History Museum, J.Makris (1984)

type: [herbaceous peony] – [species]


Accepted Name


Stearn & Davis 


3c. P. mascula subsp. hellenica

Plates 10, 11, 12; Figs 30, 31, 32

P. flavescens C. Presl in J.S. & C. Presl, Deliciae Prag. 5 (1822); C. Presl, Fl. Sicula 27 (1826).

P. corallina var. flavescens (C. Presl) Gussone, Fl. Siculae Prodr. 2:28 (1828-1832), Fl. Siculae Syn. 2:26 (1844); Lojacono Pojero, Fl. Sicula 1:53 (1888).

P. mascula var. flavescens (C. Presl) Gürke in Richter, Pl. Europ. 2:400 (1903).

P. mascula subsp. hellenica Tzanoudakis, Cytotaxon. Study Paeonia in Greece, 36 (1977).

P. mascula subsp. icarica Tzanoudakis, op. cit. 38 (1977).

a) var. hellenica

Protologue: "P. mascula subsp. hellenica Tzanoudakis subsp. nova.

Typus: Insula Euboea, Kerasovrysi, in ditione pagi Steni, Tzan. 1210 (Holotypus UPA).

A subspeciebus mascula et russi floribus albis, maioribus differt; a sub-specie icarica foliis subtus minus pilosis, segmentis secundariis segmenti centralis primoris indivisis differt.

Prov. Attica: ----Ins Euboea, -----Ins. Andros; ----Prov. Laconia: ----

Protologue: “2d. P. mascula subsp. icarica Tzanoudakis, subsp. nova.

Typus: Insula Icaria, prope pagum Monocampion, Tzan. 221 (typus UPA).

A subspeciebus mascula et russi floribus albis, maioribus differt; a subspecie hellenica foliis subtus valde pilosis segmentis secundariis segmenti centralis primoris in 4-7 foliolis divisis differt.

Ins. Icaria: Mons Atheras, prope pagum Monocampion ca. 600 m. Tzan. 2215 (UPA)” (Tzanoudakis, loc. cit. 1977).

Description: Stem glabrous, 30-60 cm. Lower leaves basically biternate, with 9-21 leaflets, obovate broadly obovate or elliptic and shortly acuminate, twice or less than as long as broad. 1-3 of the leaflets sometimes deeply bifid into similar segments; leaves greyish green above, glaucous beneath, glabrous or pilose; terminal leaflets attenuate into a shortly decurrent petiolule. Flowers 10-13 cm across. Petals 5-7, obovate to obovate-orbicular, white. Filaments purplish red. Carpels 1-5, mostly 3, long-tomentose. Style 8-10 mm long, 2 mm broad; stigmatic area 2 mm broad, circinnate from near base. Fl. April - May. 2n: 20.

Type: "Insula Euboea. Kerasovrysi, in ditione pagi Steni." Tzanoudakis 1210 (holotypus UPA). 2n = 20.

Distribution: Isolated colonies in south-western Peloponnese, Attica, Euboea, Andros (var. hellenica) and Ikaria (var. icarica).

a) var. hellenica

STEREA ELLAS (Central Greece). ----PELOPONNISOS (Peloponnese). ----KYKLADES (Cyclades): ----

b) var. icarica

NISI TOU EJEOU. Prov. Samos: ----

Greek habitats: On schistose substrate, moist and shady places with Pteridium in Abies forest, moist places in thickets Ouercus, Acer, Crataegus, Rubus, Pteridium, open rocky slopes, alt. 400-850 m.

External distribution: Sicily.

Apart from P. clusii of Crete and P. rhodia of Rhodes, the only peony of the Mediterranean area recorded before 1977 in botanical literature as having white flowers was the one in Sicily described by C.B. Presl in 1822 as P. flavescens. Presl visited Sicily in 1817 and collected this on the Nebrodi mountains in the north-east of the island. Since then several collectors have gathered the same plant at various places in the mountains of northern Sicily; Lojacono-Pojero described it as “copiosa nell’alta regione de Faggio e boschi della bassa regione ove é pin rara” with “floribus albidis”. Others have also recorded the flowers as white in a living state. The petals, however, become yellowish on drying, whence Presl’s epithet flavescens. This would appear to be the plant recorded as Paeonia folio subtus incano, flore albo vel paillido C.B.P. in Cupani’s Hortus Catholicus 169 (1696).

During the 20th century collections made in Greece, notably by Pinatzi, Goulimis and Stamatiadou, have revealed the occurrence of white-flowered peonies of the mascula group on the Taygetoy range in Laconia (Peloponnese), in Attica and on the islands of Euboea and Andros. These have been named P. mascula subsp. hellenica by Tzanoudakis. There do not appear to be any characters by which these white-flowered Greek peonies can be separated from the Sicilian one.

Recent as the botanical recognition of these white-flowered peonies has been, their existence was noted in Greek manuscripts of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, according to B. Skoubaras (1967; quoted by Papamichael, 1975:114): "The peony is the mother of all herbs. It grows on high mountains in shelter from the wind, under stones or in places paved with stones. Its leaves reach to the ground. Its flowers are white and its root is like a man's finger."

The differences in habit, leaf, flower colour and follicles separating Paeonia mascula subsp. mascula, subsp. russi and subsp. hellenica are such that, adopting a narrow specific concept as Slapf did, they could be maintained as independent species. No differences of comparable magnitude separate the eastern island population of Ikaria distinguished as subsp. icarica from the mainland and western island populations named subsp. hellenica. In a living state both as wild and cultivated plants they look alike. Some plants from Ikaria have leaflets as sparsely hairy below as those of Andros and Evvia. There is indeed a slight difference in the lower leaves, with hellenica distinguished as having 9-13 leaflets with a length-breadth ratio 1.25-1.70 from icarica distinguished as having 11-21 leaflets with a length-breadth ratio 2.0-2.1, but leaves similar in appearance and the number, shape and hairiness of leaflets can be found in plants from Andros and Ikaria cultivated side by side. Accordingly they are here united in the same subspecies, despite much initial reluctance, and reduced to varietal rank within it as var. hellenica and var. icarica. The large flowers of P.mascula subsp. hellenica with their spreading lightly crinkled pure white petals and red and yellow stamens, arising out of bold foliage, place it among the most beautiful of wild peonies. Big many-flowered clumps growing profusely among rocks on an Andros hillside are one of the most memorable floral spectacles of Greece.

peonies & seeds

Samen /seed collected Oct. 2000 on Mt. Parnitha/Attica

Carsten Burkhardt's Web Project Paeonia - The Peony Database


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