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(peonies), a genus of perennial herbs, shrubs, and subshrubs of the family Ranunculaceae. (The genus is often placed in the monotypic family Paeoniaceae.) Herbaceous species have an almost vertical rhizome, a large root system with root tubers, and numerous stems. Arborescent forms have relatively long woody shoots. The ternate, biternate, or triternate leaves have variously shaped pinnatipartite or pinnatisect segments. The large, usually solitary flowers have five to eight white, pink, red, or, less frequently, yellow petals. The multiple fruit has large, ripe seeds, which are usually shiny black.
There are approximately 35 species in the temperate and mountain regions of Eurasia; two species are found in western North America. The most common herbaceous species are P. lactiflora, the source of thousands of peony varieties, and P. chinensis. The most common arboreal form is the tree peony (P. suffruticosa).
Peonies grow in light forests, forest edges, subalpine meadows, steppes, and forest steppes. About 20 species are found in the USSR, growing in the southern and southeastern European portions, the Caucasus, Siberia, Middle Asia, and the Far East. All species are ornamentals and are cultivated in gardens and parks and grown for cut flowers. Some species, for example, P. anomala, are used in folk medicine.
REFERENCESStern, F. C. A Study of the Genus Paeonia. London, 1946.
Krasnova, N. S. Piony. Moscow, 1971.
O. M. POLETIKO