Shrubs up to 1.2 m tall. Roots up to 2 cm in diameter, cylindrical, attenuate downwards. Stems grey or brown-grey, longitudinally striate. Lower leaves biternate, always with 9 leaflets; leaflets often reddish above, mostly ovate, less frequently ovate—lanceolate or ovate-orbicular, rounded at the base, obtuse or acute at the apex, mostly entire, sometimes terminal leaflets shallowly 3-lobed, 4-12 cm long, 2—8 cm wide, usually glabrous above, densely villose at axils of major veins beneath. Flowers solitary, terminal; involucrate bracts 2-4 in number, leaf-like; sepals mostly 3, rarely 2 or 4 in number, yellow green, acute or caudate at the apex, the inner one the largest, 2,5-3 cm long, 2-2.5 cm wide; petals 5—9 in number, spreading, pink or pale pink, often with a pale red spot at the base, 3.5—5.5 cm long, 2—3.1 cm wide; filaments pale pink to pink; anthers yellow; disk entirely enveloping carpels at anthesis, red—purple, leathery; carpels 5, densely tomentose; stigmas sessile, red, 1.5-2 mm wide. Follicles ellipsoid, densely brown-yellow tomentose, 2—2.8 cm long. Seeds black, glossy, 6-8 mm long, 5-7 mm in diameter.
Chromosome number: 2n = 10 (diploid)
Mostly in deciduous broad-leaved forests, rarely on sunny grassy slopes, on limestone rocks or cliffs, at altitudes of 1,000—2,200 m. Confined to W Henan (Xixia County) and W Hubei (Baokang County and Shennongjia).
To date, Paeonia qiui has been found in only four localities. Three of the four remaining populations were found on cliffs and comprised only a few individuals. It is surely the most endangered species in Paeonia, on the verge of extinction, and therefore effective measures must be undertaken urgently to conserve the species. Prof LI Zhen-Yu informed me recently that he saw this species with certainty in Zhuxi County of Hubei Province.
Paeonia qiui is characterised by having biternate lower leaves consistently with 9 leaflets, which are ovate-lanceolate to broad-ovate, mostly entire and densely villose at the axils of major veins beneath. It has whitish pink or pink petals, often with a pale red blotch at the base. Apparently, P. qiui is most closely related to P. cathayana and P.jishanensis. It sometimes reproduces vegetatively by turions.
Images by Dick Westland
- Hong, De-Yuan. “Peonies of the World. Taxonomy and phytogeography.” Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, 2010, pp. 91-92.