Perennials glabrous throughout, very occasionally hairy on leaves and carpels. Roots carrot-shaped. Stems 40-90 cm tall, up to 1 cm in diameter, green but sometimes purple. Lower leaves biternate; leaflets 9, with 1 or several segmented; leaflets/leaf segments 10-15 in number, ovate—orbicular or broad-ovate, broad—cuneate at the base, acute, less frequently obtuse or short-acuminate at the apex, 5-15 cm long, 2-8 cm wide, glabrous on both surfaces, very occasionally puberulous on the lower surface. Flowers solitary and terminal; involucrate bracts 1 or 2 in number, leaf-like, rarely absent; sepals usually 3, less frequently 2 in number, all or mostly rounded at the apex. 1.5-3.5 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, purple; petals red, acute or rounded, entire or slightly incised at the apex: disk waved, 1-2 mm high, red; carpels 1-4, but mostly 2 or 1 in number, glabrous, very rarely very sparsely hirsute: styles 1.5-3 mm long; stigmas red, 2-2.5 mm wide. Follicles 3.5-4.8 cm long. Seeds oblong. black. 7-8 mm long. 5-6 mm in diameter.
Chromosome number: 2n=20 (tetraploid)
Growing in woods of Quercus or Cedrus in limestone areas at an altitude of 600-2,100 m. Confined to S Spain and Morocco.
Paeonia coriacea has been treated as a subspecies of P. mascula by some authors . In P. mascula, carpels are mostly 3 or 4 in number, always lanate, with hairs as long as 3 mm, sessile stigmas, and leaves that are often hispid beneath, and thus P. coriacea is distinct from P. mascula in morphology. Paeonia coriacea has been confused with P. corsica in Corsica and Sardinia. In some populations of P. corsica in Corsica (Mt Cagna) and Sardinia (Mt Limbardo), carpels were either glabrous or sparsely to densely hairy, and leaves also varied from glabrous to densely hairy; glabrous carpels were mostly not correlated with glabrous leaves. Furthermore, the peony in Corsica and Sardinia possessed 1—8 (mostly 2—5) carpels and styles of 1.5—3 mm in length, and was diploid. Thus, P. coriacea and P. corsica are two distinct species, and all peonies in Corsica and Sardinia belong to P. corsica. We have examined more than 70 collections and all are glabrous throughout except for two, one from Mt Alfacar of Granada Province, and the other from Puebla de D. Rodrigo of Ciudad Real Province. The ﬁrst collection has two sheets: one rather densely hirsute on the lower side of leaves and sparsely hirsute at the base and along dorsal suture of carpels; the other densely hirsute on the lower surface of leaves, hirsute at the base of carpels, and very sparsely hirsute on the other parts of carpels. The second collection is rather densely hirsute only on the lower surface of leaves. We suppose that the hairy individuals are just variants within populations. Eight collections were examined from Mt Alfacar, and we sampled a population from this mountain, where CN-520 is the only one with hairs.
The peony in Algeria has long been treated as a member of Paeonia coriacea or P. mascula. However, this is a distinct species, P. algeriensis, with larger and hairy leaflets/leaf segments, mostly single (less frequently two) carpels, and larger follicles (>4.5 cm long).
Paeonia coriacea in Morocco (Rif, Parc National de Talassemta).
Images by Ina Dinter from African plants – A Photo Guide.
- Hong, De-Yuan. “Peonies of the World. Taxonomy and phytogeography.” Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, 2010, p. 197-198.