Paeonia officinalis L.

common peony

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Common peony is a garden plant native to southern Europe and introduced in North America where it is beloved as a very showy garden plant. In New England, it has been collected in Massachusetts and Vermont, as it rarely escapes the garden. It grows best in semi-shade. Its leaves are divided, with smooth edges (as opposed to the Chinese peony, which has finely serrated leaves). Look for harmless ants crowding its flower buds, which exude sugary nectar. These ants are called "honeypot ants" (the species is Prenolepis imparis); the workers can store the nectar in their swollen abdomens and feed it later to their sisters in the colony).

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
Flower petal color
  • other
  • pink to red
  • white
Leaf type
the leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete leaflets
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
  • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
Fusion of sepals and petals
both the petals and sepals are separate and not fused
Stamen number
13 or more
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Fruit length
20–35 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Bulbils
    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is radially symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    the carpel is solitary or (if 2 or more) the carpels are not fused to one another
    Cleistogamous flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on the plan
    Corolla palate
    no
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    Epicalyx
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary and a hypanthium
    Flower petal color
    • other
    • pink to red
    • white
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    no
    Fusion of sepals and petals
    both the petals and sepals are separate and not fused
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    NA
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    NA
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    1
    Number of pistils
    • 1
    • 6 or more
    Number of styles
    1–15
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal and sepal colors
    • other
    • pink to red
    • white
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    NA
    Petal number
    At least 4
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    NA
    Scales inside corolla
    no
    Sepal and petal color
    the sepals are different from the petals
    Sepal appendages
    the sepals do not have appendages on them
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    NA
    Sepal number
    At least 2
    Stamen attachment
    the stamens are not attached to the petals or tepals
    Stamen number
    13 or more
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not attached to one another
    Stigma position
    • the stigmas are positioned at the tip of the style
    • the stigmas are positioned on the inner surface of the style
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene relative orientation
    NA
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    NA
    Achene type
    NA
    Capsule color (Viola)
    NA
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    NA
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Fruit length
    20–35 mm
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a follicle (has one ovary that splits along one side to release the seeds)
    Hair type on fruit
    • NA
    • the hairs on the fruits appear tangled or woolly
    Hairs on fruit
    the fruits have hairs on them
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    NA
    Mericarp length
    0 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    NA
    Other markings on berry
    NA
    Placenta arrangement
    marginal
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    0
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap
    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Parasitism
    the plant is not parasitic
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    there is a thickened taproot on the plant
  • Leaves
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    0
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    NA
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf has a distinct leaf stalk (petiole)
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is orbicular (roughly circular, as wide as long)
    • the leaf blade is rhombic (roughly diamond-shaped)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they whither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    • the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    Leaf type
    the leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete leaflets
    Leaf variation
    the leaves are nearly similar in size, prominence of teeth, and length of stalks throughout the stem
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    the pinnately compound leaves have a terminal leaflet (and usually have an odd number of leaflets per axis)
    Specific leaf type
    the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    Stipule features
    NA
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Massachusetts
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branched tendrils
    NA
    Hair between stem nodes
    the stem has hairs between the nodes
    Hairs between stem nodes
    the hairs on the stem are plain, without glands or branches, and not tangled
    Plant height
    60–70 cm
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright or angled outwards
    Stem spacing
    the plant is solitary, or a few plants are growing together
    Tendril origin
    NA
    Tendrils
    the plant does not have tendrils

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
absent
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
absent
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

None

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Paeonia lactiflora:
margins of leaf blades minutely serrulate with cartilaginous papillae and carpels and follicles usually (vs. P. officinalis, with leaf margins smooth, not minutely serrulate, and carpels and follicles pubescent with white tomentum).

Family

Paeoniaceae

Genus

Paeonia

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Paeonia officinalis L. E

common peony. MA, VT. Fields, roadsides, gardens, abandoned homesteads.