Perennials, glabrous throughout. Caudex occasionally elongated, forming rhizomes up to 15 cm long. Roots carrot-shaped. Stems mostly purple, less frequently green, 30-50 cm tall. Lower leaves biternate, with 9, rarely 8 or 7, leaflets; leaflets never segmented, ovate, oblong, or ovate-lanceolate, cuneate at the base, obtuse or acute at the apex, 6-11 cm long, 3-6 cm wide, mostly purple beneath. Flowers solitary and terminal; involucrate bracts mostly 2, less frequently 1 or 3, occasionally absent; sepals usually 3, less frequently 2 or 4 in number, rounded but sometimes one of them acute or caudate at the apex, purple; petals pink, 5-8 in number; filaments purple, anthers yellow; disk waved, 1 mm high; carpels 3-8, but mostly 4-6 in number; styles 1-2 mm long; stigmas 1-1.5 mm wide. Follicles ellipsoid-columnar, 3-4 cm long, 1-1.8 cm wide. Seeds spherical, black, c. 5 mm in diameter.
Chromosome number: 2n=10
Growing in calcareous soils with shrubs or grasses at altitudes from 20 to 1,400 m. Confined to the Balearic Islands; endemic to Spain. As far as we are aware, the species is growing at a few sites on Mallorca, on a small island, Cabrera, and on Menorca. In 2001, we visited the port of Pollença and found a population with only about 100 individuals near the tunnel. This species is surely one of the most endangered peonies.
Paeonia cambessedesii has three distinct characters: 1) glabrous throughout; 2) leaflets 9 or even fewer in number, never segmented; 3) a large number of carpels, which easily distinguish it from all of its allies. The species has the smallest number of leaflets in the genus, and the greatest number of carpels in section Paeonia. Another characteristic of this species is the mostly purple colour of the lower side of the leaf.
Images below: P. cambessedesii in Pollenca, Formentor, Mallorca, Spain. Copyright: Antoine Périer
Images below: P. cambessedesii in Northwestern Mallorca, Serra de Tramuntana. Copyright: Hans Achilles
Images below: P. cambessedesii in the Soller Botanic Garden on Mallorca, Spain. Copyright: Jardí Botànic de Sóller
- Hong, De-Yuan. “Peonies of the World. Taxonomy and phytogeography.” Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, 2010, p. 149-152.