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