Botanical Name: Paeonia delavayi
Species: P. delavayi
*P. delavayi var. atropurpurea, var. angustiloba, var. alba, var. lutea forma superba
*P. potaninii, var. trollioides, forma alba
Common Names: Tree Peony, Dian mu dan, Delavay’s tree peony.
Habitat :Paeonia delavayi is native to E. Asia – China in Yunnan and Likiang. It grows on shady, moist areas of pine forests, in forest clearings and among scrub at altitudes of between 3,050 – 3,650 metres.
Paeonia delavayi is a deciduous hairless shrub of ¼-1¾ m high. Plants have creeping stolons and the roots are thick because they are fused together. It mainly reproduces by growing into large clones like this. Young twigs are light green, or tinged purple, rarely branching, erect, generally on top of perennial, stick-like, grayish to light brown stems. In lower plants, woody parts may not be present above ground. Like all diploid peonies, it has ten chromosomes (2n=10).
The leaves are arranged alternately around the stem. In the lower leaves the leaf stalk is 10–15 cm long and the leaf blade is oval in outline, 15–30 cm long and 10–22 cm wide, twice compounded or very deeply incised, first into three to eleven leaflets, themselves deeply divided or lobed into two to eleven secondary lobes (this is called biternate). These are linear to linear-lanceolate in shape and have an entire margin or incidentally may have a few teeth. Usually each lower leaf has between twenty five and one hundred segments (full range 17 to 312). The width of the leaf segments is ½-2¾ cm. Higher along the stem leaves becoming smaller with fewer leaflets and segments.
As usual in peonies, there is a gradation between leaves, bracts and sepals. One to five bracts defined as those immediately below the calyx, have various shapes, ranging from incised and leaf-like to entire and sepal-like. Sepals are rounded or triangular-rounded, mostly green, but sometimes with a pink inside, dark red or purple. They have a much broader base and a smaller, narrower, rounded or suddenly pointed (or mucronate) dark green tip. The number of bracts and sepals together varies up to 10 or 11, sometimes forming a less or more conspicuous involucre.
The nodding flowers open from mid May to mid June, are sometimes single but usually two or three together on a branch, one at the end and the others in the axil of the leaves. The color of the petals also varies between and within populations from red, dark red, or dark purple-red, mostly in the northeast the range, and yellow either or not with a dark red spot at the base towards the South and West, and sometimes petals may be yellow with a red margin, orange, green-yellow, or white. The number of petals ranges from four to thirteen. Between 25 and 160 stamens have yellow, pale red, red, or dark red filaments topped by yellow, orange, red, or purple anthers. Although flowers with red brown petals usually have red to purple filaments and anthers, both filaments and anthers can also be yellow in such flowers. The fleshy disk at the base of the carpels is short, ring-shaped or forms a short cylinder 1–3 mm high, with teeth, green, yellowish, yellow, red, or dark red in color. The disk may secrete nectar which gives off a scent. There are mostly two to four rarely up to eight carpels. The ovary is mostly green, but sometimes purple, is topped by a yellow-green, yellow, red, or purple-red stigma, and contains seven to seventeen ovules in each carpel. These develop into fruits (so-called follicles) which are long ovoid in shape, 2-3½ × 1-1½ cm, which are brown when ripe in August, and contain between one and six brown-black seeds each.
Paeonia delavayi is cultivated as an ornamental in gardens. In China, it is cultivated to produce a traditional medicine. It is said to be grown with ease, preferring a neutral or limy, deep rich soil in sun or partial shade. It is however sensitive to stagnant water at the roots and does best in soils with good drainage, such as in raised beds. Planting tree peonies in a sheltered position may help to prevent strong winds from breaking branches, particularly during flowering. Tree peonies in general can suffer from peony wilt (Botrytis paeoniae, a grey mould blight) and verticillium wilt, which may cause wilting and dieback of young shoots. In infected soils, honey fungus can cause instant death.
The following use is for P. suffruticosa. It quite probably also applies to this closely-related species. Flowers – cooked. The fallen flower petals are parboiled and sweetened for a teatime delicacy, or can be cooked in various dishes.
The bark obtained from the root has an antimicrobial effect upon various bacteria, including Escherichia coli, typhoid, cholera, Staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus hemolyticus and Pneumococci. The root is also anti-inflammatory and has been used with success in the treatment of arthritic joint swelling. The root is also analgesic, sedative and anticonvulsant, it has a high success rate in the treatment of dysentery and can also be used to treat allergic rhinitis. The plant is used internally in the treatment of fevers, boils, menstrual disorders, nosebleeds, ulcers, irritability and gastro-intestinal infections. This remedy should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The herb acts as a synergist when used with liquorice (Glycyrrhiza spp). A tea made from the dried crushed petals of various peony species has been used as a cough remedy, and as a treatment for haemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Excellent in borders as specimens and in groups. Also effective as accents or hedges along fences, sidewalks, driveways or walls. Flowers are extremely showy, and foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season, either alone or as a frame or backdrop for other flowering plants.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.