Epitomy of Pink

Nadya Johnson

Joined January 2009

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Peonies
Oregon, Illinois (USA)


Featured in NATURE’S PAINTBRUSH
Featured in MIDWESTERN US PHOTOGRAPHY

A flowering plant in the genus Paeonia, the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae. Peonies are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America. Scientists differ on the number of species that can be distinguished ranging from 25 to 40, although the current consensus is 33 known species.

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They have compound, deeply lobed leaves and large, often fragrant flowers, in colors ranging from purple red to white or yellow. They bloom in late spring and early summer.

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The peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. According to legend, when Asclepius became jealous of his pupil, Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into a peony flower.

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It may come as a surprise to people in the USA ~ especially in the Heartland of Ameria where peonies are ubiquitous in June and can be seen in nearly every garden; but they orinate in ancient China and and were introduced to Europe, the UK and the Americas in fairly recent times.

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Ancient Chinese texts mention the peony was used for flavoring food. Confucius (551–479 BC) is quoted to have said: “I eat nothing without its sauce. I enjoy it very much, because of its flavor.” Peonies became particularly popular during the Tang dynasty, when they were grown in the imperial gardens. In the tenth century the cultivation of peonies spread through China, and the seat of the Sung dynasty, Luoyang, was the centre for its cultivation, a position it still holds today.

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The main centre of peony breeding in Europe has been in the United Kingdom, as well as France. Here, breeders like Victor Lemoine and François Félix Crousse selected many new varieties, such as “Avant Garde” and “Le Printemps”. The Netherlands is the largest peony cut flower producing country with about 50 million stems each year, with “Sarah Bernardt” dominating the sales with over 20 million stems.

In Japan Paeonia suffruticosa is called the “King of Flowers” and Paeonia lactiflora is called the “Prime Minister of Flowers.”

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In China, the fallen petals of Paeonia lactiflora are parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy. Peony water, an infusion of peony petals, was used extensively for drinking in the Middle Ages. The petals may be added to salads or to punches and lemonades.

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Mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the Peony, giving it the meaning of “Bashfulness” in the Language of Flowers. Over 262 compounds have been obtained so far from the plants of Paeoniaceae. These include monoterpenoid glucosides, flavonoids, tannins, stilbenoids, triterpenoids, steroids, paeonols, and phenols. In vitro biological activities include antioxidant, antitumor, antipathogenic, immune-system-modulation activities, cardiovascular-system-protective activities and central-nervous-system activities.

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And me, up to now I only loved them for their sweet perfume! :-)

Information is condensed from Wikipedia

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Artwork Comments

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