The peonies from the Caucasus region (NE Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and adjacent Russia) together with Iran harbor many peony species that are lesser known. The region is less accessible and from time to time political problems arise, often resulting in less peaceful ways to resolve them. My interest in peonies from that region stems from one particular cultivar bred by A.P. Saunders early in the 20th century: Ballerina. A.P. Saunders introduced many hybrid peony plants from different species, but Ballerina is my favorite amongst them all. It is a pale yellow double herbaceous peony, flowering early in the season with particularly beautiful brownish foliage when young. As an amateur hybridizer myself I was eager to use it in my crossing efforts early on but it turned out to be highly infertile, which could probably be somewhat expected as it was the triploid result of Paeonia wittmanniana (tetraploid) x Paeonia lactiflora (diploid) according to his notes. So to be able to have somewhat similar results I surely needed to go back towards P. wittmanniana, a plant which I didn't have at the time. It wasn't easy to obtain such a plant and most of the plants bought turned out to be wrong, but when I finally had a good one flowering I couldn't help but notice that it flowered white. You might call it milky white perhaps, but surely not pale yellow. This is fully in accordance with what it should be actually, many taxonomic mistakes are simply the result of using dried specimens to describe species, and when the flowers in a living state are white/cream/pale yellow, those differences will tend to disappear. Now why was Ballerina pale yellow? We tried to find some more information on the species plants of A.P. Saunders and it turns out that he said it was a difficult growing plant of a pale yellow colour. Now that cannot be P. wittmanniana of course, given the colour. It would more probably be P. steveniana or, if it is a synonym, P. macrophylla. Remarkably A.P. Saunders also grew a plant he knew as P. macrophylla, a completely different plant for him with white flowers this time, not yellow nor cream. He later believed his P. macrophylla to be P. tomentosa due to the tomentose carpels, low growth, and depressed veins of the leaflets. However that species is also known to have pale yellow flowers. The most obvious candidate then would be P. archibaldii - which has white flowers but was not yet named in Saunders' days - but those are supposed to have glabrous carpels, not the tomentose ones which the plant of Saunders had... We might say the puzzle only got more complicated and it's one that we were eager to solve given the magnificent plant that Ballerina is. So, here's our best effort to give an overview of the species in the wittmanniana group and other peony species from that region.