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Linnaeus’s older contemporary Philip Miller (1691-1771), from 1722 to 1770 curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden, possessed an almost unrivalled knowledge of plants in cultivation, much of which he incorporated in successive editions of his Gardeners Dictionary, from 1731 to 1768. Well versed in the classifications of John Ray and Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, he accepted reluctantly the classification and binomial nomenclature of Linnaeus and rejected many of Linnaeus's broad generic and specific concepts which conflicted with his own firsthand observation and judgement.

He recorded twelve kinds of Paeonia, both single and double, in the 6th edition (1752) of his Dictionary. He ignored Linnaeus's view that such plants differing between themselves in root and leaf were variants of one species.

In the 7th edition (1759), which provides an amplified account of the genus, he referred them to six species distinguished by diagnostic phrase-names.

He maintained the same six species in the 8th edition (1768), published when he was 77, but, having at last accepted Linnaean binomial nomenclature, he added specific epithets, namely

1 (Mascula),

2 (Foemina),

3 (Peregrina),

4 (Hirsuta),

5 (Tatarica),

6 (Lusitanica).

Thus, tardily, Miller became the author of the accepted names P. mascula for the “male peony” later named P. corallina by Retzius, and P. peregrina for the Balkan peony of Clusius, later named P. decora by George Anderson.

From the book:

Peonies of Greece

A taxonomic and historical Survey of the Genus Paeonia in Greece

William T. Stearn and Peter H. Davis