By Mr. R. Irwin Lynch, F.B.H.S.; A.L.S. [Read June 10,1890.]

Journ Royal Horticultural Society vol. 12,pp.428-445 fig. 24-32 .

attention! pictures are still missing (I must make compressed copys of them for the web), the links are dead

I beg leave to lay before the Society a new classification of the genus Paeonia, in which I have grouped and arranged the species according to my estimation of their true relationship. No natural arrangement exists that can be used for plants of the present day, and I believe that such an arrangement is always the most useful and convenient. There are, for instance, several plants in gardens that are incorrectly called Russi, and by the following arrangement it may readily be observed that they do not resemble any plant of the group in which Russi is placed, and consequently it may be seen, without reading a description, that the names are wrong.

This genus is found to be difficult; and though it would scarcely be possible to remove all the difficulty, I hope by means of this arrangement to make it more easily understood. It is difficult for various reasons, but more especially in gardens, because some of the types are connected by intermediate gradations, both of hybrid and probably wild origin, the history and knowledge of which have been lost. We have various forms that have not been described or figured, while the figures and descriptions that we have are often insufficient for the certain identification of the plants they represent. It is difficult as a critical genus on account of rich variation within the limits of hose subordinate groups we call species, and because some of those species, as Asa Gray would have said, are confluent in a series.

I have endeavoured to make it easy by this arrangement to refer any plant to a group of a limited number of species, and then by means of short descriptions to determine the species or botanical variety to which it must belong. I have set myself to understand the species as known to Anderson, who gave us the first good monograph, more than seventy years ago, in the twelfth volume of the Transactions of the Linnean Society, and as held by Baker, who gave us the second, published in the Gardeners' Chronicle of 1884. In that, but not including all the garden varieties to which Anderson gave botanical status, I believe I have succeeded. I carry discrimination a step further than Mr. Baker does, but I deal mainly with species according to his monograph, and, considering the nature of the plants, I think that enough for one season, as a basis, especially if I may be allowed at a future time to return to the subject.

Mr. Barr has numerous forms in his well-known collection that require prolonged attention, for the plants of this genus are such that they cannot well be understood until the eye has been educated to see clearly the points they present. We may find it necessary to make more species or varieties for some of those plants that Mr. Barr has, or for others that will be introduced. Bnt this must be done, in most cases, after some deliberation. We have, in fact, still to make a study of this genus. It is one that can only be understood by study in the garden, and with proper means. We must have the plants of this genus got together, just as Mr. Barr has got together those of the genus Narcissus; indeed, from what I have seen, he already promises to do as much for it as he has done for the genus Narcissus. The best example we can have for its treatment is that devoted to Iris by Professor Foster, which is, in fact, the one method of treatment for all critical garden genera. We have, no doubt, a great deal to discover and much to learn. We must get seed and plants from all quarters where Paeonies are found, and then, as we get the wild plants side by side, we shall learn what the forms and variations of the genus are worth. I believe myself in the permanence of many of those forms we call slight, and I think it not amiss to ask respect for all so-called mere forms that are truly wild. They are important for study, and it is only by chance very often that any given form, as we express it, has not been taken as a type, and reverenced as a centre around which other forms must group. By getting wild Paeonies together we may expect to understand the various forms and hybrids that we now have in gardens. Under the figure of the so-called Paeonia Russi in the Botanical Magazine of 1880, it is remarked that so many hybrids and varieties are now cultivated that it would puzzle the most acute botanist to mark the limits of the species. We have now, I dare say, a number of those plants to deal with. I do not myself believe in much difficulty if we prosecute a complete study. By following the lines I have indicated we shall learn the value of characters, we shall avoid the great difficulty that happens sometimes, of trying to distinguish botanically those plants that are essentially the same, and, on the other hand, we shall recognise the importance of differences that we may now consider slight. If Linnaeus had had the complete view to which I refer, he could not, for instance, have combined P. corallina with P. officinalis in one species. It is the real knowledge of living plants that we must get, and then we may go much further in a scientific manner than is possible with dried plants. I believe the compilers of Continental Floras might pay attention to us with great advantage when we have accomplished what we propose to do.

But now as to this classification. The latest, most valuable, and complete monograph is that by Mr. Baker in the Gardeners' Chronicle of 1884. He uses certain characters of the carpels for the grouping of species, by which some closely related species are separated, and others not related are brought together. Now mature carpels are not always present or produced, and it appeared to me that if a new arrangement could be made upon characters generally present, and by which it would be possible to keep allied species together, so as to bring their distinguished features directly in contrast, that a study of the genus would be facilitated. In the sub-genus Paeon, the only one that has more than a single species, I take my divisional characters chiefly from the leaves. Flowers do not afford strong botanical characters by which to go very far. This does, I dare say, favour the view of the "Genera Plantarum," that the species (of the date of writing) might probably be reduced to four or five, and from this broad view the groups I have made would no doubt, with some exceptions be regarded as species. But I believe that a greater number must be admitted even from a purely botanical point of view. The leaf differences are considerable, and, though leaves do vary, it is always within defined limits and not in confusion.

In dealing with the entire genus I make three sub-genera. First of all Moutan, characterised by shrubby habit and a development of the disc that envelops the carpels. The carpels are enclosed, as it were, in a bottle, with the stigmas protruding at the mouth. The early condition is shown by fig. 22, and a later stage, with the bottle bursting by the swelling of the carpels, by fig. 23. Of this there is only the well-known species P. Moutan, cultivated in China and Japan, and known only in cultivation. The next sub-genus, Onaepia, is herbaceous in habit, and is characterised by fleshy or leathery petals, shorter, or at least no longer, than the sepals. An idea of its characters is given by fig. 24. It has one species, P. Brownei, native from nearly sea-level in California to nearly the snow-line in the Rocky Mountains. There is at least one good variety, I think, for our purpose, established by Nuttall with specific rank as P. californica. It has since been reduced to Brownei, but in such cases of reduction, when the two plants are known to the botanist who establishes the second species, we may often suspect something quite distinct for garden purposes. This differs conspicuously in the more acute ultimate segments of the leaf, as shown by fig. 25. P. Brownei is the only Paeony native of North America, and may be said to stand as far apart from other Paeonies in relationship as it does geographically.. All other Paeonies are natives of Europe or Asia.

The remaining sub-genus I call Paeon, after De Candolle. It is always herbaceous, with large spreading petals, not fleshy like those of P. Brownei.

I come now to the groups of this sub-genus Paeon, of which I make five, indicated by letters A to E, and to the essential part of the work I have done. They are sufficiently explained in the following classification, and by the accompanying figures. It will be noticed that under group E, I endeavour to break up the species P. peregrina, as understood by Mr. Baker. He includes, or rather does not distinguish, P. pubens, which appears to me distinct, and he combines those plants that have the terminal lobes of the leaf trifid whenever fully developed with those that never have the terminal lobe divided in this way. All the varieties of peregrina in Anderson's monograph appear to have the terminal lobe trifid, and this is splendidly shown by specimens grown at Glasnevin. Miller is the authority for the species, and he describes it "foliis difformiter lobatis, lobis incisis." The last two words I understand to refer to fissuring of the lobes, as otherwise it is difficult to comprehend their application. I take, therefore, those plants which have at least the terminal lobes trifid for true peregrina. I admit four species which are not in the monographs to which I have referred, and having dealt only with those that are in gardens, I have omitted four not yet introduced, viz.: P. obovata and P. Corsica (described by Mr. Baker in his monograph), together with P. lutea and P. Delavayi, both recent discoveries in the province of Ynn-nan, of which specimens have lately been added to the Kew Herbarium. I may add that I have been unable to find any clear mark of distinction between P. humilis and P. microcarpa, and believe they will prove at least conspecific.


Sub-genus Moutan

Shrubby. Disc produced enclosing the carpels. See figs. 22 and 23.

1. P.Moutan Sims

Sub-genus Onaepia.

Herbaceous. Petals short and leathery, scarcely exceeding the sepals. N.W.America. (See fig. 24.)



2. P. Brownei, Dougl, Bot. Reg., vol. xxv., t. 30.—

Leaflets ternately divided or pinnatifid, ultimate segments oblong-obtuse, somewhat glaucous.

var. californica (P. californica, Nutt.),

with leaflets bifid or trifid, never pinnatifid, ultimate segments oblong-lanceolate, acute and not glaucous. Appears distinct. (See fig. 25.)


Sub-genus Paeon.

Herbaceous. Petals not leathery, large and expanding, much exceeding the sepals.

A. Leaves pinnatisect, with numerous narrow divisions, glabrous. (See fig. 26.)


3. P. tenuifolia L., Bot. Mag., t. 926.—

Stoloniferous. Leaves ten to twelve, the longest about one-third the length of stem, not longest below ; segments linear. Flowers seated on the upper leaves. Petals dark crimson. Transylvania to the Crimea, Caucasus, and Armenia.

4. P. hybrida, Pall .,Bot. Mag..,xiv.,t. 1208.—

Not stoloniferous. Leaves about six, the lower long, about half the length of stem; segments linear-lanceolate. Flowers stalked above the leaves ; petals dark crimson. Not a hybrid. Native of grassy places in the promontory of the Caucasus, especially near Stauropolis; rare in Tauria. P. laciniata, Willd., according to Bieberstein.

5. P. anomala, L., Pall. Fl. Ross; t. 85 (P. sibirica), described as P. laciniata at p. 98; Bot. Mag., t. 1754.—

The type alone is figured; it has glabrous carpels, with other marks of distinction, and may not be in cultivation—though P. sibirica from Canon Ellacombe, called anomala in the Kew Herbarium, might prove to be it. The cultivated forms belong to one botanical variety, P. a. insignis. It has, stems 1 to 2 feet high ; leaves about ten, the lower about one-third or one-quarter the length of stem; segments lanceolate; carpels with red pubescence and leaves reducing to the flower (typ.), or with leaves not reducing to the flower (P. Barr), or having carpels with white pubescence (P. W. Moore). The leaves are sometimes very slightly pubescent.

B. Leaflets normally quite entire, rarely divided, but sometimes deeply to the base; never decurrent or confluent, except sometimes the lateral leaflets of a terminal trio. (See fig. 27.)


* Carpels glabrous.

6. P. Wittmanniana, Stev., Bot. Mag,, t. 6645.—

Leaflets thin, ovate, deep green; distinctly pubescent beneath. Corolla pale yellow. Caucasus and mountains of Persia.

7. P. coriacea, Boiss.

Leaflets broadly ovate, firm in texture when mature, glaucous below, with no sign of pubescence. Corolla large, bright crimson. Alps of Grenada, mountains of Morocco, and Algeria.

** Carpels hairy.

+ Leaflets almost, if not quite, glabrous below.

8. P. triternata, Pallas (P. daurica, Andr.), Bot. Mag., t. 1441.—

Roots oblong or cylindrical. Stems green. Lowest leaf usually inserted at some distance from the ground, not very long; leaflets nearly round, undulated, greyish-green above, sometimes very slightly pubescent below. Flower rose. Caucasus, Asia Minor, and the Crimea.

9. P. corallina, Retz., Eng. Bot., t. 1513.—

Root spindle-shaped or knobbed. Stems reddish. Leaves long below ; leaflets broadly ovate, often broadest towards the top, flat, deep green above with reddish veins, quite glabrous on both sides. Corolla crimson. Follicles densely villose. This is the P. mas of Pliny. It is not British. France to Asia Minor.

10. P. Broteri, Boiss et Beut.

Root cylindrical (one received from Barr). Stems reddish. Leaflets ovate, acuminate, broadest about the middle. Corolla rose-red, sometimes white. Follicles pilose. A new ally of P. corallina. Mountains of Spain and Portugal.

++ Leaves decidedly hairy below.

11. P. Russi, Bivon.

Root of P. corallina. Lower leaves exactly biternate; leaflets thin. Corolla crimson. Carpels finely pubescent, strongly reflexed when mature. Corsica, Sicily, Sardinia, and Algeria.

C. Flowers more than one on each stem. All divisions of the leaf beyond the three primary ones strongly decurrent. Glabrous. (See fig. 28.)


12. P. albiflora, Pallas, Pall. Fl. Ross., t. 84; Andr. Repos., t. 64; Bot. Beg., t. 42; Bot. Mag., tt. 1756, 1768—

Common and well known. Comes out of the ground in spring with strikingly bright red, long, and slender buds. Leaves at first reddish, then of ruddy green. Sepals with strongly secreting glands, very attractive to ants. Single and double garden varieties vary from white to red. Carpels three to four, glabrous, though sometimes pubescent in bud. Siberia.

13. P. Emodi, Wall., Bot. Mag., t. 5719 (good).—

Leaves deep green, not ruddy as in P. albiflora. Flowers white from the axils of upper simple leaves. Carpels one, rarely two; tomentose. Western Hemisphere, Himalayas.

D. Leaves of deep green colour, light green below, and not glaucous, rarely, slightly pubescent; leaflets broad, cut and fissured. Sepals glandular, but not with secretion so copious as in P. albiflora. Corolla large and handsome.(See fig. 29.)


14. P. officinalis, Retz., Bot. Mag., 1.1784.—

As above. The common species in gardens; single and double species vary from white to red. Southern half of Europe.

var. lobata (P. lobata. Desf.), Sweet, Fl. Garden, t. 70, not of Rchb., Flora Germanica.—

Dwarfer than all the forms of officinalis proper. Leaf segments numerous, very obtuse, and decurrent, much imbricated, sometimes slightly pubescent below. Easily recognised by its unique brilliant salmon-coloured flower. Native of Portugal according to De Candolle's Systema.

E. Leaves glaucous, or of very pale green above, generally of striking grey-green aspect; leaflets glaucous below, and very rarely without distinct pubescence, always divided, and with the lobes often fissured. (See figs. 30-33.)


I. Flowers distinctly stalked, not apparently sessile, and resting on the upper leaves.

* Carpels glabrous.

15. P. humilis, Retz., Bot. Mag., t. 1422.—

Stems 11/2 to 2 feet high. Leaves biternate, petioles tinged with red, the terminal free, stalked, divisions of three lobes, the middle one trifid. Corolla rose-red. Stigmas long and upright, hooked at the top. South of France.

16. P. microcarpa, Boiss. et Reut.

A very near ally of the preceding; the cultivated plants, so far as I have seen, not easily distinguished. The Cambridge plant has very red petioles, with leaflets narrower than those of humilis, very pubescent beneath. Mr. Baker describes the plant as having stems 1 to 1 1/2 foot long. Lower leaves, with about thirty oblong acute confluent segments, 1/2 to 3/4 inch broad, very pubescent beneath. Outer sepals not so compound as in humilis. Petals bright crimson. Follicles two, very spreading, smaller than in humilis. Mountains of Spain.

** Carpels hairy.

+ Terminal free (stalked) divisions of the leaf usually three-lobed, with the middle lobe trifid. (See fig. 30.)



17. P. decora, Anders.

Stems 2 to 3 feet high. Leaves horizontal, diminishing to the top ; leaflets oblong-obtuse, longitudinally concave. Flower rather smaller than is usual in the genus, supported on a long peduncle (Anders.). Petals about eight, small and narrow. Carpels very large, spreading from the base when mature. Anatolia and Servia.

Anderson distinguishes two varieties—Pallasii, with leaves narrowly oblong, and elatior, with leaves broadly oblong. The plant grown as decora elatior may be recognised even in a weak state by having few processes of the disc, with a connection between the carpels at the base of similar surface and appearance to that of the carpels themselves. This connection between the carpels is found also in tritemata.

18. P. peregrina, Mill. (as understood, I believe, by Anderson and Miller).—

Stems about 2 feet high. Leaflets ovate-lanceolate, usually flat.

var. byzantina, Anders.

A smaller plant than arietina. Stem 2 feet high, covered with white hairs. Leaves bitemate, remarkable for pale grass-green colour ; middle leaflet three-lobed, deeply incised or pinnatifid; leaflets more obtuse at the base than those of arietina, rarely decurrent. Calyx glabrous. Seeds oblong. I have not seen a plant that answers this description or to match the specimen in Kew Herbarium.

var. compacta, Anders.

About 1 foot high. Leaflets broad and imbricating, ultimate divisions very obtuse, deep green above. Calyx pilose at the base. Corolla purple-red. Seeds round.

var. Grevillei, Anders.

About 2 feet high. Leaflets deeply incised, not imbricating, undulated, sometimes twisted, of pale-green colour, margins red, ultimate division very acute. Corolla purple-red. Seeds round.

19. P. paradoxa, Anders.; Sweet, Brit. Fl. Garden, t. 19.—

About 1 foot high, the dwarfest except mollis and sessiliflora. Forms a dense tuft of leaves. Leaflets three-lobed and incised, the fissures short and obtuse, much imbricated, and with red margins. Carpels pressed close together, and little separated in the ripe fruit. Corolla purple-red. A close ally of peregrina, from which it is known by smaller ovate and more glaucous leaves, with more divided, crowded, and imbricating leaflets. Montpellier and Trieste.

++ Terminal free divisions of the leaf three-lobed; the middle lobe rarely bifid, never trifid, (See fig. 31.)



§ Leaflets about twice as long as broad.

20. P. arietina, Anders.

The largest species of this section. It is well marked by decurrent leaflets, with strongly arched and even recurved carpels when mature. South of Europe.

var. Andersoni.

Leaves blue glaucous green. Corolla deep rose, petals slightly crisped. Perhaps native of the Levant.

var. cretica (P. arietina oxoniensis, Anders.; P. cretica, Clusius).

Leaves pale green. Corolla pale rose, or nearly white, petals lacerated. This is one of the earhest of Paeonies, and may be known as it comes out of the ground in spring by the pale glaucous green colour of the leaves. Mountains of Crete.

21. P. Bakeri, n. sp. (P. peregrina byzantina, Hort. Barr).—

Root cylindrical or somewhat spindle-shaped. Stem stout, about 2 feet high, red or reddish, flexuose, pilose from the lowest leaf to the flower. Leaves about six, biternate, the lowest often inserted at nearly its own length from the ground, not quite one-third as long as the stem; petioles reddish; leaflets (all divisions cut to the midrib or secondary petiole, and in symmetry with the rest of the leaf), 13 to 15 of lower leaves, 3 to 3 1/2 inches long, broadly ovate, acute, margin reddish, and upper surface often suffused with reddish tint, all strongly decurrent and quite entire, except that the terminal middle leaflet may be cut once deeply (as in fig. 32), very hairy beneath and glaucous. Flowers always (apparently) 2-bracteate; calyx slightly hairy, sepals five, oval or rotundate; corolla deep rose, about 41/2 inches across, opening fairly flat; petals eight, obovate, slightly crisped, usually with white median line beneath. Carpels tending to three, arcuate.

One of the most distinct as a species in this group. Its habit resembles that of P. tritemata. It is twice as tall as P. arietina Andersoni in the Cambridge Botanic Garden. Differs in important particulars from Anderson's description of peregrina byzantina, who does not remark some features of this plant. In the Kew Herbarium it is referred to pubens, but from that it differs greatly in the shorter leaflets and colour of the flower. (Compare figs. 32 and 33.)

§§ Leaf segments three times, or more, as long as they are broad.

22. P. pubens, Sims, Bot. Mag., t. 2264—

Stem hairy. Leaf segments tapering to a point, very hairy below, margins red. Corolla rosy red. (See fig. 33.)

23. P. Barrii (P. Russi, Bot. Mag., t. 8431, non Bivon.).—

Leaf segments about five times as long as broad, scarcely pubescent, but very glaucous below. Corolla brilliant red. Requires a new name, as the type for similar plants with narrow segments scarcely hairy beneath.

II. Plants dwarf, with flowers subsessile, appearing to rest on the leaves.

24, P. mollis, Anders., Bot. Reg,, vi. 474; Sweet, Brit. Fl. Garden, vol. ii., 1.108; Lodd. Cab., 1.1268.—

Stems a foot high or more, rigid. Leaves dark bluish green, flat, compact, and much divided ; secondary petioles almost wanting ; segments broadly lanceolate or oblong, crowded, imbricating, not bordered with red, densely hairy below. Corolla small, purple-red. Carpels usually three, erect, slightly incurved. Anderson suspects it to have come from the Crimea.

25. P.villosa, Sweet, Fl. G; 1.113 (P. sessiliflora, Bot. Mag; t. 2648).—

Nearly related to the above, but with secondary petioles not abnormally short, leaf segments and carpels nearly the same. Corolla white. I am assured that this must be distinct as a species from P. mollis, but I have not seen them growing together.


Among other gentlemen I have greatly to thank Mr. Ban' for his liberality in sending me specimens and generally in placing his knowledge at my disposal. I have greatly to thank Mr. Moore, of Glasnevin, for his liberality in sending me specimens, and it is only fair to say that the Glasnevin collection is remarkably rich and well named. The specimens that were exhibited came from the Cambridge Botanic Garden in part only. I have to thank Prof. Foster and the authorities of the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin, Kew, and Oxford for certain specimens that I could not provide to the same degree of development, or that I could not provide at all.


The Rev. W. Wilks : Mr. Paul particularly wishes me to say a few words on the cultivation of Paeonies, as he knows my infatuation for these too little known plants, and the large collection of garden varieties which I have. Now Paeony-growing is not a case of " small capital and quick returns," it is rather the reverse. It is in its way and degree like planting fruit-trees : a comparatively large sum must be spent at planting, and then the planter must be content to wait three, four, or even five years before he reaps the full reward of his patience, labour, and expense—but then what a reward it is ! Kings and queens, nay, very emperors, of the herbaceous border are these Paeonies, so rich and varied in their colours, from the purest white of driven snow, through ivory and yellow, pink and salmon and crimson, to the deepest blood-crimson, and a few which have e.uch an intensity of colour as to look almost claret-brown. And then the scent of most of them, like a mixture of frankincense and roses I Yes, the reward is well worth all the outlay, all the patience, all the toil.

To grow Paeonies successfully you must first well trench the ground and dig in a quantity of the richest possible manure— how much I cannot say, for I have not yet discovered the limit of a Paeony's greedy appetite —but the manure itself should not actually touch the young plants -when first put in, as it encourages slugs and wireworm to come and devour the wounded tuberous roots. The distance from plant to plant that I have adopted, and I do not think you can improve upon it, is 8 feet, and the distance between the rows (if grown in a bed) 4 feet. The little rosy crowns of the young plants should be planted in November and placed about 1 inch, or 1 1/2 inches, below the surface of the ground, but in my opinion not deeper, as I believe the Paeony rejoices in heat, and even in comparative dryness, after it has done flowering. It loves to roast its crowns and tubers in sun-heat, in preparation for its next year's efforts. The first season after planting all they will require will be to be kept free from weeds, their leaves loosely tied up to prevent their being blown off by high winds, and copious watering in dry weather till the blooming season is well over, i.e. till about the second week in July; and if any of them show bloom-buds the first year after planting, it is a wise self-sacrifice which gently nips them out and is content to wait.

The second and subsequent years they will want more attention. In November cut off all the fading foliage, lightly fork the bed over, being careful not to turn up more than an inch of the soil close round the plants, and not more than 2 or 3 inches anywhere. No spade should ever be allowed in the Paeony bed, except to plant with. Leave the ground rough through the winter ; do not attempt to protect or coddle them ; the colder they are the better, as they will not start so soon in spring, which is the only danger. In February, when the frost is on the ground, give then a mulching all over the bed of 2 to 8 inches of rich cow-dung, taking care, of course, not to place any immediately over the crowns, but close round them. When the young growths are about a foot high they should be lightly secured against wind-breakage, and as soon as the sharp frosts are well over, say from the end of April, they should be well soaked (for they are very deep-rooting plants) with strong manure-water, not pouring it on the crowns, but around them, and this should be continually repeated until July, unless the weather or the soil be exceptionally wet. In May the plants .should be carefully gone over once a week, and all the side flower-bads carefully nipped oat, leaving only the central or main bad:

this is of the utmost importance with all the double varieties, but does not apply to the single ones, which are far more beautiful if the side buds are left on, but the doubles are so double that they have quite as much as they can manage to develop one good flower on every stalk. When blooming time is over the seed-vessels should be carefully removed, one more soaking of manure-water given, and then leave the bed till the November clearing-up time comes again, and then, da capo, never omitting the 3-inch mulch of cow-dung or its equivalent.