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Paeonia tenuifolia

Paeonia tenuifolia , Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Ordo: Saxifragales

Familia: Paeoniaceae
Genus: Paeonia
Sectio: P. sect. Paeonia
Subsectio: P. subsect. Paeonia
Species: Paeonia tenuifolia

Paeonia tenuifolia L., Syst. Nat. ed. 10, 2: 1079 (1759).

Typus: Herbarium Linnaeanum N° 692.4 : LINN. Lectotype designated by Schmitt, 2003.


Paeonia tenuifolia f. normalis A.Nyár. in Sãvulascu, Flora Rep. Pop. Romane 2: 675 (1953), nom. inval.
Paeonia tenuifolia var. typica Schipcz., Not. Syst. Herb. Hort. Bot. Petrop. 2: 46 (1921), nom. inval.
Paeonia laciniata Pall., Fl. Ross. 1(2): 93 (1788).
Paeonia hybrida Pall., Fl. Ross. 1(2): 94 (1789).
Typus: The specimen with handwriting “Paeonia hybrida, Flora Rossica, tab. 86” (Lectotype designated by Hong & Pan, 2004: 89, fig. 1B. BM).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. hybrida (Pall.) Lipsky, Fl. Caucasi: 235 (1889).
Paeonia multifida Gueldenst., Reis. Russland 2: 19 (1791).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. laciniata Salm-Dyck, Hort. Dyck.: 371 (1834).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. plena D.Don in Sweet, Brit. Flow. Gard. 7: t. 345 (1836).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. latisecta Neilr., Aufz. Ungarn Slavon. Gefässpfl., Nachtr.: 70 (1870).
Paeonia tenuifolia f. latisecta (Neilr.) Borza, Consp. Fl. Roman. 1: 94 (1947).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. parviflora Huth, Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 14: 271 (1891).
Typus: Romania, Dobrudscha, Babadagh, 9 May 1874, Sintenis 906 (Holotypus: BP).
Paeonia tenuifolia f. parviflora (Huth) Borza, Consp. Fl. Roman. 1: 94 (1947).
Paeonia lithophila Kotov, Bot. Zurn. (Kiev) 13(3): 49 (1956).
Typus: Ukraine, “dit. Taurica”, Sudak Distr., Karadagh, Mt Sancta, 23 May 1948, M. Kotov & E. Karnauch s.n. (Holotype: KW)
Paeonia tenuifolia var. brevifolia Prodan & Borza, Bul. Acad. Stud. Agron. Cluj, ser. 5, 1: 278 (1935).
Typus: non design.
Paeonia tenuifolia f. brevifolia (Prodan & Borza) Borza, Consp. Fl. Roman. 1: 94 (1947).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. florepleno Lemaire, Fl. des Serres 4: t. 308 (1848).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. latifolia Prodan & Borza, Bul. Acad. Stud. Agron. Cluj, ser. 5, 1: 278 (1935).
Typus: non design.
Paeonia tenuifolia f. latifolia (Prodan & Borza) Borza, Consp. Fl. Roman. 1: 94 (1947).
Paeonia biebersteiniana Rupr., Fl. Caucas. 47: 288 (1869).
Typus: Russia, near Stavropol, M. Bieberstein s.n. (Holotype: LE).
Paeonia tenuifolia var. biebersteiniana (Rupr.) N.Busch, Fl. Cauc. Crit. 3(3): 9 (1901)
Paeonia tenuifolia subsp. biebersteiniana (Rupr.) Takht., Fl. Armen. 5: 8 (1966).
Paeonia tenuifolia subsp. biebersteiniana (Rupr.) Halda, Acta Mus. Richnov., Sect. Nat. 4(2): 29 (1997), comb. superfl.
Paeonia carthalinica Ketsk., Zametki Sist. Geogr. Rast. 21: 18 (1959).
Typus: Georgia, Kartli, Tirdznissi Village, 10 May 1958, N. Ketskoveli s.n. (Holotype: TBI).


Paeonia multifida Salm-Dyck (1835) = Paeonia peregrina Mill.


Paeonia × hybrida Pall.
Paeonia × saundersii Stebbins
Paeonia × smouthii Smouth

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Europe
Regional: Southeastern Europe
Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia.
Regional: Eastern Europe
Krym, South European Russia.
Continental: Asia-Temperate
Regional: Siberia
Regional: Caucasus
North Caucasus, Transcaucasus.

Paeonia tenuifolia

Paeonia tenuifolia (*)

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. 1759. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Tomus II. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiæ: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii. i–iv+825–1384 pp DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.542: 1079. Reference page.

Additional references

Hong, D.Y. & Zhou, S.-L. 2003. Paeonia (Paeoniaceae) in the Caucasus. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 143(2): 135–150. DOI: 10.1046/j.1095-8339.2003.00173.x Reference page.
Hong, D.Y. 2010. Peonies of the world. Taxonomy and phytogeography. 302 pp., Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 978-1-84246-392-5. Reference page.
Halda, J.J. 2004. The Genus Paeonia. Timber Press, Portland, 227 pp. ISBN 0-88192-612-4. Reference page.
Schmitt, E. 2003. Typification of the Linnean names of the genus Paeonia L. Candollea 58(1): 183–188. PDF Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2020. Paeonia tenuifolia in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2020 Dec 14. Reference page.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Paeonia tenuifolia in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
suomi: Tillipioni
svenska: Dillpion
українська: Півонія тонколиста

Paeonia tenuifolia is a herbaceous species of peony that is sometimes called the fern leaf peony. It is native to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia and the Black Sea coast of Ukraine, spreading westward into Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia and eastward to northwestern Kazakhstan. It was described by Linnaeus in 1759. The leaves are finely divided into almost thread-like segments and grow close together on the stems. This peony can reach 30–60 cm (12–24 in) in height. The scented red flowers have numerous yellow stamens in the centre.[3]


Paeonia tenuifolia is a hairless herbaceous perennial plant with a stem of 30–60 cm high, which is densely set with alternately arranged compound leaves. The lowest leaves are twice compounded or the leaflets are deeply divided into many fine linear segments, ½-6 mm wide, with a blunt to rounded tip, dark green above, and lighter glaucous green below. The usually single flower on each stem seems to be floating on the foliage. The flower is 6–8 cm across, cup-shaped, with deep crimson, long inverted egg-shaped petals, with a rounded or blunt top. The stamens are 1½—2 cm long, with yellow filaments, anthers and pollen. There are usually three, sometimes two, coarse felty haired carpels, that will eventually develop into 2 cm long, dry, dehiscent fruits called follicles. This species is diploid with ten chromosomes (2n=10).[4]

Paeonia tenuifolia was first described by Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema naturae of 1759. Franz Josef Ruprecht distinguished it from P. biebersteiniana, which was based on a specimen from Stavropol, in the Flora Caucasi, that was published in 1869. Opinions seem to have been divided as Lomakin only mentions P. tenuifolia in 1897, while two years later Lipsky separated the two species again, along with Nikolai Schipczinsky in 1937. Ketzchoweli described in 1959 P. carthalinica from Igoeti, Georgia and thought it to be very closely related to P. tenuifolia, though having broader leaflets and greyish felty hairs on the carpels and follicles. Kemularia-Nathadze, who revised the genus Paeonia in 1961, considered these two might be synonymous. In 2003, Hong and Zhou found the characters that were used to distinguish between all three taxa occurred in any combination and intergraded. Even within one population, plants typical fitting to either of the original descriptions occurred together. They found one plant with some leaves with very narrow leaflets less than 1 mm, while other leaves on the same plant had broad leaflets of over ½ cm. There seems to be consensus now that all are best considered as one polymorphic species.[1][2]
Wild Paeonia tenuifolia in a protected area of Russian steppe, Volgograd Oblast.

P. tenuifolia flowers earlier than other peonies, and dies down early too. This is probably because it grows in steppes, with dry and hot summers. The seeds of this species germinate above the soil in full light, which is exceptional among peonies.[5]

The caterpillars of the moth Pelatea klugiana feed on the leaves of several Paeonia species, including Paeonia tenuifolia. Several larvae live together in a nest of silk that binds together several lobes of a leaf, and move only within the nest.[6]

This hardy species is an attractive plant for the garden which is easy to grow and hardy in temperate zones. Still, as an inhabitant of the steppes of southern Russia and Kazakhstan, it is adapted to growing in the full sun and experiencing cold winters, and dry, hot summers, and it is susceptible to moult development on its leaves during prolonged wet spells.[5] It has been in cultivation in Germany since 1594, and was introduced to England in 1765 and America in 1806. There are several cultivars and hybrids known to be in cultivation:

Paeonia tenuifolia 'Rosea' has pink flowers
Paeonia tenuifolia Rosea Plena' with double pink flowers[5]
Paeonia ×smouthii, a presumed hybrid with P. lactiflora, which was commercially introduced in 1843, and sometimes listed as P. laciniata in nursery catalogues. It is taller than P. tenuifolia, and usually has more than one flower per stem with a sweet perfume, traits inherited from P. lactiflora. It is a diploid, and does not produce fertile seed. It was probably named in honor of M. Smout, a professional chemist at the Catholic University of Mechelen, who was an active breeder of plants.[7]
Paeonia ×majko, a presumed hybrid with P. daurica, found in Georgia, is not deemed particularly appealing.[8]
P. tenuifolia var. plena, a variety with double flowers, is said to have been introduced to English gardens in 1765.

P. hybrida: in 1818 it was regarded as a garden hybrid between P. anomala and P. tenuifolia by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle in 1818, which according to him also occurred in the wild.[4] However, Hong and Pan regard P. hybrida as synonymous with P. anomala.[9]

Hong, De-Yuan; Zhou, Shi-Liang (2003). "Paeonia (Paeoniaceae) in the Caucasus" (PDF). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 143 (2): 135–150. doi:10.1046/j.1095-8339.2003.00173.x. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
"Paeonia tenuifolia L." The Plantlist. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
Peonies: The Imperial Flower, by Jane Fearnley Whittingstall. ISBN 0-297-82424-4
Stern, Frederick Claude (1946). A study of the genus Paeonia. London: The Royal Horticultural Society. cited on Carsten Burkhardt. "F.C. Stern: A Study of the Genus Paeonia (1946)". Web Project Paeonia. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
"Paeonia tenuifolia". Heartland Peony Society. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
Nedoshivina, Svetlana V.; Zolotuhin, Vadim V. (2005). "A new subspecies of Pelatea klugiana (Freyer, 1836) from the Middle Volga Region of Russia, with notes on its morphology and life history (Tortricidae)" (PDF). Nota Lepidopterologica. 28 (1): 3–9. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
"Early peonies marry with late daffodils and bridalwreath spiraea for colour". Canadian Gardening. Retrieved 2016-04-12.[permanent dead link]
Pauwels, I.; Vervoort, G. (2009). Pioenen [Peonies] (1: in volle glorie [in full splendor] ed.). Uitgever Lannoo Uitgeverij. p. 143. ISBN 978-9020965070.
Hong De-Yuan; Pan Kai-Yu (2004). "A Taxonomic Revision of the Paeonia anomala Complex (Paeoniaceae)". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 91 (1): 87–98. JSTOR 3298571.

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