Makedonskaja, N.V. : Biologitcheskije osobennosti dalnjevostotchnykh pionov v prirode i v kulture. V knige: Akademia Nauk SSSR, Dalnjevostotchnyj Nautchnyj Tzentr, Botanitcheskyj Sad (Izdat.) : Prirodnaja Flora Dalnjevo Vostoka (Biologoja, Ispolzovanie, Okhranie), Vladivostok 1977 pp. 53- 58 deutsch: Biologische Besonderheiten der Fernöstlichen Päonien in der Natur und in Kultur. im Buch: Akademie der Wissenschaften der UdSSR, Fernöstliches Wissenschaftliches Zentrum, Botanischer Garten (Herausg.): Die Natürliche Flora des Fernen Ostens (Biologie, Erkundung, Bedrohung), Wladiwostok 1977 english: Biological Peculiarities of the Far Eastern Peonies in Nature and in Culture. in the book: Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Far Eastern Scientific Centre, Botanical Garden (Ed.): The Natural Flora of the Far East (Boiology, Exploration, Endangermant), Vladivostok 1977

Academy of Sciences of USSR, Far East Science Center, Botanical Garden

Flora of the Far East, (Biology, Utilization, Preservation) Vladivostok, 1977, Biological features of the far east peonies in their natural habitat and in culture,

N. V. Makedonskaya

(translated from russian language by Marina Kasimova, 2005)

Similar to the Caucuses, the Far East region of the Soviet Union is rich in ancient species of Paeonia Lactiflora.  In addition, three out of the fourteen species of peonies, generally found in the Soviet Union grow in the Far East (Uspenskaya, 1975).

            The esthetic quality, the medical properties, the originality of biological characteristics and the lack of complete understanding necessitate the investigation of the peonies growing at the Soviet Far East.

            The aim of our work was to reach a more accurate description of specific differences, geographical distribution, and genetic alterations within the species.  Our purposes included clarification of the peony growing conditions in nature and exploration of the possibilities of their utilization and preservation.  The biological features of the Far East peonies were studied in cultivation at the Biological Garden of the FESC[1] AS USSR[2] in Vladivostok. (1973-1976).

            The first phase of the investigation included creating a collection of seeds and plants with the simultaneous compilation of a herbarium of peonies and other companion plants found in the Primorski region and on the Sahalin island.

            The research was performed both during the hike-searches and at the semi-stationary rest areas[3].

            The second phase consisted of phenological observations, as well as investigations of growth and development of peonies during the first year of cultivation.  The investigation of the above- and below-ground development of the peony parts was done following the method of V.V. Skripchinskiy (Skripchinskiy et al. 1970).

            The final phase included the development of methods and ways of effective propagation of the Far East peonies.

            The analysis of the morphological, ecological, and biological properties of the Far East peonies in nature and in cultivation clarified their characteristic differences and the feasibility of their utilization.

            Comparative investigation of the Far East peonies in their natural habitat/cultivation, as well as the analysis of the herbal collections, stored at the major scientific centers of the country, aided their detailed systematic classification. There are several peony species growing in the Soviet Far East: Paeonia lactiflora Pall. (= P. albiflora Pall.), Paeonia obovata Maxim (= P. japonica Miyabe et Takeda), P. oreogeton S. Moore (= P. vernalis Mandl.).

            Based on rather imprecise citing of the original work and due to the incomplete description of the Japanese peony, initially introduced by N. V. Shipchinskiy (1937) in “Flora of the USSR”, the soviet botanists D.P. Vorobiev and V.N. Voroshilov (Vorobiev et al. 1966) erroneously established a race of P. obovata, which they considered P. japonica.

            The ambiguity of the systematic classification of the Far East peonies occurred due to the wide distribution of P. obovata and the great variation within this species.  Our field data and the observations in cultivation accounting for the specific morphological, biological properties and geographical distribution, suggest independence of the species of P. obovata.  At the same time, the race[4] selected by Soviet botanists does not have permanent characteristics and it is distributed within the same regions as P. obovata.  To pinpoint the difference between these two species we used a method of pressed[5] samples (in collaboration with N. N. Gurzenkov, FESC AS USSR) and determined the basic chromosome count.  We found that the ecological race of P. obovata, considered as a Japanese peony by Soviet botanists, has the same tetraploid chromosome count as original P. obovata.  Therefore, we concluded that both peonies belong to the same species.

            As a result of our morphological studies of these plants, we were able to adjust the description of the Far East peonies (see the table). 

            All Far East peonies show some morphological variability.  The tetraploid P.obovata has the highest variability, suggested by the variation of the petal color from white to pink, the shape of the leaves, the degree of flower opening, etc.  The diploid species, P. lactoflora and P. oreogeton both has lower amplitude of variability.

            By their geographical distribution all Far East peonies can be considered as endemic of the Far East.  Paeonia lactiflora has the widest distribution, covering the Eastern Siberia and Far East, whereas P. obovata’s distribution is more limited.

            P. oreogeton grows only at the south of Primorski region.  Outside the Soviet Union, the Far East peony species can be found in the northeastern part of People’s Republic of China, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia (Shipchinskii, 1937; Vorobiev et al. 1966).

            By their biological and ecological characteristics the Far East peonies can be divided into two groups: those found in forests (P. obovata and P. oreogeton) and the ones found at the borders of steppe[6] (P. lactiflora).

            The former is often single-stemmed plant with one flower per stem and the smooth leaf edge.  It grows in mixed deciduous and coniferous-deciduous forests, distributed sparsely, one by one, or in small groups.

            The only representative of the latter group is P. lactiflora, an ordinary, group plant of the drying meadows or steppe, dry, rocky slopes with the well-drained soil and the low hazel bushes[7].  It is often found in oak forests and similar.  It grows en masse, numbering between 40 to 200 plants on an area of 100 sq. m. P. lactiflora is a powerful plant with numerous stems, and multiple, from 1 to 9 flowers per stem.

            One of the important phases in the process of introducing new species is clarification of the specific features of morphogenesis of the plants, in particular the process of formation of the new sprout.

            All Far East peonies belong to the type with the two-year cycle of the development of the sprout, that covers three vegetative periods (27 months). The yearly morphogenetic cycle in the development of the vegetative and reproductive organs of the Far East peonies includes several phases.  The initiation of the new buds and the beginning of the differentiation of the flower/leaf parts occurs in the summer: the forest species have it in June – the beginning of July, whereas  P. lactoflora does it in July – beginning of August.  The full formation of the reproductive organs finalizes at the beginning of the fall (forest species) and in the spring of the next year (P.lactiflora).  Formation of the vegetative and reproductive organs occurs simultaneously.

            The investigation of the annual cycle of the Far East peonies aids the development of their growing methods.

            According to the series of experiments on vegetative and seed propagation in cultivation, the most effective approach was the propagation by primary buds (eyes) with a piece of root/stem cut at the time of seed ripening, i.e. in the second and/or third decades of August (70-80%). The forest species show the high regeneration ability by the root pieces (60-70%). Under controlled conditions P. lactiflora shows good propagation ability by leaf and stem pieces with nodes, collected in the stage of hard flower bud (20-25%).

            We also note a positive influence on this process of heteroaukcin (0.015% with 24 h exposure).

            The seed propagation of the Far East peonies, which are evolutionary closer to the ancient forms, is more cumbersome.  The seeds have notoriously slow germination rate (10-16 months) and the seedlings have a long development period (5-7 years).  To increase the germination percentage and the survival rate the seeds should be collected before ripening (or opening of the follicles).  They should also be stratified by oscillating temperatures.

In culture and on a good soil, the Far East peonies sharply increase the number of stems and their decorative characteristics, since both the flowers and the leaves become larger.  The first cultivation attempts confirmed that the plants have a good development, flower well, and produce seeds.  During the whole vegetative period these peonies have good show features due to the good appearance of their leaves, flowers and fruits.  The content of the opened carpels is extremely decorative with the dark blue and red seeds.

In landscape work the forest peonies are well suited for creating the forest-like areas, rock gardens and Alpine arrangements.

The methods of preservation for this species can include both the creation of natural resorts and the introduction of the plants into cultivation. In addition, the collection of the wild growing peonies within the Botanic Garden of the Far East Science Center AS USSR can serve as a base for the investigation of the biological species, hybridization trials, propagation and selection of outstanding morphological forms with the purpose of their introduction in cultivation.  These actions will also benefit the preservation and circulation of their genetic material.




D.P. Vorobiev, V.N. Voroshilov, P.G. Gorovoi, A.I. Shreter. The genus Paeonia. Plants of Primorie and Priamurie. “Nauka”, 1966, p. 179.

V.V. Skripchinskii, Yu.A. Dudar’, Vl.V. Skripchinskii & G.T. Shevchenko. Methodology of investigation and graphical presentation of the morphogenesis of a flower stem growth and the rate of seasonal development of deciduous plants. “Trudy Stavropol’skogo nauchno-ussledovatel’skogo instituta sel’skogo hozaistva”. ed. X, part II. Stavropol’, 1970, p 1-20.

Uspenskaia M. S. Pionovye (Paeoniaceae). In a book “Dikorastuschie vidy flory SSSR, nuzhdaiuschiesa v ohrane.” “Krasnaia kniga”. “Nauka”, 1975, p. 95-96.

Shipchinski N. V. Rod Pion (The genus paeonia).  In a book Flora SSSR, v. 7, M-L., AN SSSR, 1937, p. 29.


Table. Comparison of the morphological characteristics of the the Far East peonies of the Paeonia L subgenus[8].


Plant parts

The name of species

P. lactiflora Pall. =

P. albiflora Pall.

P. obovata Maxim. =

P. japonica Miyabe et Takeda

P.oreogeton S. Moore =

P. vernalis Mandl.









Horizontal, the tips looking down

The shape of the terminal leaflet

elliptic-lanceolate, often not fully flat

Wide-obovate or lanceolate

Wide-obovate, but as if cut at the end, with the sharply acute tips




Connection between the leaflets


Sessile or with a petiole

Sessile, rarely with a petiole


Number per stem

1-9, more often 3-4




Wide open

Closed of cup-shaped

Half-opened or wide open


Light pink at the beginning of flowering, later white

Bright pink

White/cream, rarely slightly pinkish

Filament color

Yellow, sometimes white

White, sometimes yellow or white

White, purple at the base

Position and a shape of carpels

Tight, short

Tight, elongated

Diverging, short





Amount of follicles in a fruit

1-6, more often 3-4

1-6, more often 3-4

1-2, rarely 3


Barrel-shaped, upward positioned

Curved down

Curved down

Color of the exodermis?>????


Yellowish green


Color of the endodert?????

Dark brown

Bright raspberry

Bright red

Characteristics of the upper part


The stigma is still present, although not so apparent

Clearly visible left-over stigma






Green, often with the reddish cast

Light green in the spring and the clear grayish cast

Light green with the purple shade on edges






Primary root

Numerous diverging main roots

Numerous diverging main roots


Not clearly visible

Clearly visible

Not clearly visible

Shape and color of eyes

Elongated, light pink or white

Elongated, pointed, light pink, rarely white

Ball-like, rounded at the top, white


[1] FESC – Far East Science Center

[2] AS USSR – Academy of Science of the USSR

[3] The authors apparently refer to the two different approaches to biological studies of the native species.  One involves a continuous traveling in search of the places where peonies are growing.  The other method involves camping at the same site for some period of time in order to observe the progress of this particular population. Translator’s comment.

[4] I guess it means species, since it applies to P. obovata. Translator’s comment.

[5] This is a direct translation from Russian.  I know neither what it means nor what the name of this method is in English. Translator’s comment.

[6] Arid land with xerophilous vegetation found usually in regions of extreme temperature range and loess soil. Translator’s comment.

[7] They name one more plant, but I do not know what it is and has never seen it myself. Translator’s comment.

[8] The botanical terms of the description might be not very accurate, since the translation was done literally, without a good knowledge of the correct terminology for the names of plant parts and the description of different shapes. Translator’s comment.

[9] I am not sure whether it is the sheath color or flower color. Translator’s comment.