Paeonia mascula Miller ssp. mascula Stearn & Davis

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

type: [herbaceous peony] – [species]

accepted name



Cullen & Heywood:


P. mascula (L.) mill., Gard. Dict. ed. 8, No. 1 (1768).

(a) subsp. mascula

Syn. P. corallina retz., Obs. Bot. 3: 34 (1783).

Distribution: Widespread in S. Europe and the southern parts of C. Europe: France, Italy, Siciliy, Germany, Jugoslavia, Romania, ? Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Russia (West).


Stearn & Davis


3. P. mascula

P. officinalis L. var. mascula L., Sp. PI. 1 (1753). P. mascula (L.) Miller, Gard. Dict. ed. 8 art. Paeonia No. 1 (1768); Cullen & Heywood in Fl. Europ. 1:244 (1964).

Protologue: “1. Paeonia (Mascula) foliis lobatis ex ovatolanceolatis. Haller, Helv. 311. Peony with lobate leaves which are oval and spear-shaped. Paeonia folio nigricante splendido, quae mas. C.B.P. 323. Peony with dark shining leaves, otherwise male Peony. The first sort here enumerated, is the common male Peony, which grows naturally on the Helvetian mountains." (Miller, loc. cit. 1768).

Description: Very variable. Roots tapering, somewhat carrot-like. Stems 25-60 cm, glabrous. Lower leaves basically biternate; leaflets entire, or some of them deeply bifurcate or trifurcate; total number of leaflets 9-21, ovate, elliptic or broadly obovate, glabrous or pilose beneath, the terminal leaflets petiolulate. Flowers 7.5-13 cm across. Petals 5-9, red, pink or white. Filaments red, purple, pink or white. Carpels 2-5. Style 6-12 mm (including stigma). 2n : 10 or 20.


1. Petals white.... 3 c. subsp. hellenica

1. Petals red, purplish or pink ......... 2

2. Leaves purplish and not fully expanded at flowering time, long-pilose on lower surface. Stem 20-45 cm high. Follicles 1.5-2.5 cm long .. ............. 3b subsp. russi

2. Leaves green and fully expanded at flowering time, glabrous or very sparsely hairy beneath. Stem 35-60 cm high. Follicles 2.5-4.5 cm long ....... 3

3. Leaflets 9-12, flat, at least twice as long as broad, distinctly acute ....... 3a subsp. mascula

  1. Leaflets basically 9 (a few divided at base in 1-2 small leaflets), undulate at margin and somewhat concave above, much less than twice as long as broad, obtuse or subacute ..... 3d. subsp. triternata

3a. P. mascula subsp. mascula Plates 5,6,7; Figs 6,9,27

P. mascula (L.) Miller, loc. cit. (1768): Moss, Cambridge Brit. Fl. 3:155 t. 166 (192U); F.C. Stern, Study of Paeonia, 17, figs. (1946) in part P. corallina Retzius, Obs. Bot. 3:34 (1783); Sowerby & Smith, Engl. Bot. 22: t. 1513 (1806); Hayek, Prodr. Fl. Penins. Balcan. 1:297 (1924).

Illustrations: Sowerby & Smith, op. cit. t. 1513 (1806); Moss, op. cit. t. 166 (1920); F.C. Stern, op. cit. (1946).

Description: Stem 36-60 cm, glabrous. Lower leaves basically biternate, with 1 or several leaflets often deeply bifurcate or trifurcate so that the leaves have 9-21 leaflets. Leaflets nearly flat, elliptic to obovate-elliptic, broadly and shortly acuminate, green above, glaucous and glabrous beneath (rarely with few sparse hairs on veins); terminal leaflets broadly elliptic, flat, cuneate at base, attenuate into a 5-20 mm petiolute. Flowers 9-12 cm across. Petals 6-8, obovate, purplish red (fuchsia). Filaments purple. Carpels 2-5, long-tomentose. Style 8-12 mm; stigmatic area c. 2 mm broad, circinnate from base. Fl. April - May. 2n: 20. Type: Described from garden material (see below).

Distribution: Eastern central Greece and eastern Aegean islands.

STEREA ELLAS (Central Greece). ----------

NISI TOU EJEOU (Aegean Islands). --------

Greek habitats: Shady pinewoods, damp shady places with Pteridium in Pinus-Abies forest, N.E. limestone slopes and clearings. Altitude 700-1200 m.

External distribution: Southern Europe eastwards to the Caucasus, Asia Minor, northern Iraq and Iran.

On Samos typical subsp. mascula and plants approaching subsp. triternata occur on Mt. Kerkis, whereas on Mt. Ambelos apparently only subsp. mascula is present. Stern (Study Gen. Paeonia. 81) records P. arietina Anderson (i.e. P. mascula subsp. arietina (Anderson) Cullen & Heywood) from Mt. Ambelos (Rechinger 3889) in Samos, but all material we have seen from this mountain has glabrous petioles etc., and is assignable to subsp. mascula. Subsp. arietina. however, grows in Anatolia and extends westwards to Kaz Dag (Trojan Ida) north of the island of Lesvos.

When separating as species the peonies hitherto known and distinguished metaphorically as male and female, Philip Miller rejected Linnaeus's 1753 comprehensive name P. officinalis but adopted his varietal epithets feminea (as foeminea) and mascula for specific epithets. Miller, as was his custom when using Linnaean epithets, did not directly cite Linnaeus's names as synonyms but cited pre-Linnaean polynominals also occurring in Linnaeus's Species Plantarum. Such common synonyms directly link Miller's Gardeners Dictionary, 8tb edition, and Linnaeus's Species Plantarum. The protologue of P. officinalis [beta] mascula L. (1753) is as follows:

"mascula [beta] Paeonia foliis lobatis ex ovato-lanceolatis Hall. Helv. 311. Paeonia folio nigricante splendido, quae mas. Bauh. pin. 323.

Paeonia mas. Lob. ic. 684.

Reference to Miller's protologue (cited above) shows that both he and Linnaeus cited the same works, Albrecht von Haller's Enumeratio methodica Stirpium Helvetiae indigenarum (1742) and Caspar Bauhin's Pinax Theatri botanici (1623); both authors took their diagnostic characters from Haller, whose account is as follows:

"2. PAEONIA foliis lobatis, ex ovato lanceolatis.

Paeonia mas Gesn. Hort. p. 270. Coll. p. 97. b. Matthiol. p. 914. Lob. ic. p. 684-685. Dod. p. 194. Tab. p. 784. Raj. p. 693. Blakw. T. 245.

Paeonia altera Trag. p. 582.

Paeonia Caes. p. 588.

Paeonia mas major flore incarnato, Aichst. Vern. Ord. VI T. XI. f.l.

Paeonia mas una praecocior I.B.III. p. 492.

Paeonia flore nigricante splendido quae mas C.B.P. I.R.H. Paeonia simplex latiore folio trifido H.OX.III p. 454.

[beta] Paeonia mas altera tardior I.B.lc. H.O.Xlc. RAJ. p. 694 I.R.H C. Gesner in M. Generoso prope Luganum nasci audivit. Genevae Lobelius. Huic radix crassa, divaricata, non glandulosa, caulis altior, ad duos cubitos, ramis et costis foliorum purpura tinctis, fbliis amplioribus, minus difformibus, raro divisis, lobis tripinnis et quinquepinius, floris purpureo colore dulutiori, seminibus rotundis, crassioribus”

Both from the synonymy and the descriptive note on the roots (unlike those of his first species, P. officinalis “radicibus glandulosis interruptis") it is evident that Haller referred here to the Paeonia mas of earlier authors but did not know it as an undoubted Swiss native plant. In fact, unlike P. officinalis, it nowhere grows in Switzerland although widespread in Italy. Haller obviously knew it from living cultivated plants. L’Obel's woodcut (Fig. 9) on p. 684 of his Plantarurn seu Stirpium Icones (1581) cited by both Haller and Linnaeus clearly portrays the plant to which both Linnaeus and Miller applied the epithet mascula. Meikle, Flora of Cyprus 1:69 (1977) has suggested that it might be taken as lectotype of the name P. mascula (L.) Miller. Originally used in a narrow sense for a cultivated plant probably introduced from Italy, the name is now used to cover a diversity of recognizable taxa treated for convenience as subspecies but most of which have often been regarded with good reason as independent species.


Cullen & Heywood in Tutin: Flora Europaea


(a) Subsp. mascula: Leaves glabrous or pubescent beneath; lower leaves with 9-16(-21) elliptical to ovate leaflets. Flowers red. Filaments purple. 2n = 20. From C. France to E. Greece.


Martin Page on the British Peony Society's Website see: http://www.peonysociety.org.uk/species.html

Passalaqua & Bernardo (2004)

in The Genus Paeonia in Italy (2004)


Carsten Burkhardt's Web Project Paeonia - The Peony Database


Free counters!