Paeonia emodi(1)

Perennials. Roots carrot-shaped, up to 2.5 cm in diameter. Caudex short, not elongated. Scales at the base of  stems 5—8 in number, purple—red. Stems up to 60 cm tall, green. Lower leaves biternate, with some or all of  9 leaflets segmented; leaflets/leaf segments 15—27 in number, ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate, 7—14 cm long,  1.5—3.8 cm broad, glabrous or with sparse bristles along veins above, always glabrous beneath, some segments  lobed, lobes acuminate at the apex. Flowers mostly 2—3, terminal and axillary at axils of the upper leaves, rarely  solitary and terminal; involucrate bracts 3-4 in number, leaf-like; sepals 3-4 in number, green, ovate-orbicular  to orbicular, all caudate at the apex, 1.2-2.0 cm long (tailed part excluded), 1-2 cm broad; petals white, 8—10  in number, obovate, often bilobate, c. 4 cm long, c. 3 cm broad; filaments yellow; anthers yellow; disk pale  pink, waved; carpels single, occasionally 2, green, tomentose with hairs 1—2 mm long, less frequently glabrous;  styles absent or up to 1 mm long; stigmas pink, 1 min wide. Follicles long—ovoid or ellipsoid, 2-3.5 cm long,  1.2—1.5 cm in diameter. Seeds brown—black, oblong, 7-9 mm long, 3.5-6 mm in diameter.

Chromosome number: 2n = 10

Growing in bushes on dry or rocky slopes at altitudes from 1600 to  3,200 m. The western Himalayas and northeastern part of the Hindu Kush: China (SW Xizang  (Tibet) and S Xinjiang), NW India, W Nepal, N Pakistan and E Afghanistan (Nuristan, Chetras) .

Hooker & Thomson (1875) described a form of Paeonia emodi with glabrous carpels as the  variety glabrata. All six flower specimens that I examined in the Herbarium of Royal Botanic  Garden Edinburgh (E) have tomentose carpels and follicles. However, in other collections at the  Conservatoire et jardin botaniques de la Ville de Geneve (G), the carpels and follicles of seven  flowers (from five specimens) are tomentose; whereas those of four flowers are glabrous. Falconer 77 from Kashmir (P) has two individuals (stems) that are alike; their  carpels are both single, but one is glabrous whereas the other is tomentose. According to Miss J.  Coote’s field observation in Kashmir, the form with tomentose carpels and that with glabrous  carpels “grew together and they were exactly alike in height, appearance and mode of growth”. It seems to us that pubescent or glabrous carpels reflect another example of  polymorphism in carpel character for Paeonia emodi.

Paeonia emodi most resembles P. anomala, P. sterniana and P. lactiflora, but it differs from all of these  species in having the carpels mostly single (92.6%), rarely two (7.4%). In addition, it is different from  P. lactiflora in having leaf margin smooth (rather than cartilaginous thickened and dentate-spinose) and  the carpels mostly tomentose (88%; rather than usually glabrous). Paeonia emodi differs from P. anomala  in having the leaflets/leaf segments no more than 30 in number (as opposed to 70 to 100), and from  P. sterniana in having nearly always multiple flowers per stem (rather than nearly always solitary) and  the carpels mostly tomentose (rather than always glabrous).

 Saunders and Stebbins (1938) crossed Paeonia anomala and P. emodi, obtaining a very low seed  set and sterile hybrids. This supported their observation that the two species are not only  morphologically distinct but also reproductively isolated.

Footnotes:
  1. Hong, De-Yuan. “Peonies of the World. Taxonomy and phytogeography.” Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, 2010, p. 118-120[]

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