Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wild Origins of the Garden Peony- Paeonia lactiflora

The plant which most gardeners know as the Peony has been in cultivation for millenia, initially in ancient China and from there moving into the west. While in cultivation the usual practice of selective breeding has resulted in the selection of forms and colours which are less usual in the original wild populations or even mutations which would be unlikely to reproduce or survive in the wild. More recently, the thrust of breeders has been towards hybrids, often between Paeonia lactiflora and another species but also between two non-lactiflora species or between hybrids.

Despite the popularity of the bred forms, it has more recently become possible once again to grow P lactiflora from seeds collected in the wilds of Mongolia and Northern China. The two flowers posted today are of two different seed collections from the wild by the Czech botanist Josef Halda, and which I bought as very juvenile seedlings from another nursery. The interpretation I make from Halda's seedlists, that various separate wild populations have fairly stable and consistent flower colour. I will know more in a year or two as the rest of my wild lactiflora seedlings come to bloom (I have 3 from each of 4 collection sites)


Denis Wilson said...

Do you like the simple forms of Lactifloras?
Why were they called albiflora, in earlier days? I assumed the "pure" species forms must originally have had white flowers. Even "lactiflora" suggests a pale flower.

Leo said...

Absolutely, I do like the simple forms, and not least because they don't overwhelm the stem with their weight and so they remain standing through all (well, most) weathers and are thus good landscape subjects.

I would have to guess that the albiflora name came about when the botanist was introduced only to white-flowered selections. There is no shortage of similar occurences in any number of Genuses.

Denis Wilson said...

I noted your comments on the next batch about the heavy flowers. (thankfully there were some white ones in there too).

Here in Robbo, I too can have, (depending on the season) a problem with rain flattening heavy flowers. I like your point that they are good "landscape" flowers. I understand the concept, but I end up picking all my flowers, and giving them to my friends.