The peony (Paeonia) is the sole genus in the flowering plant family Paeoniaceae. Most are herbaceous perennials 0.5-1.5m tall, but some are woody shrubs up to 2-3m tall. They produce large, often fragrant flowers in shades of red to white or yellow in late spring and early summer. They are native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America.
Species of peony include:
* Herbaceous species (about 30 species)
* Woody species (about 10 species)
Symbolism and uses of peony
The peony, along with the plum blossom, are two traditional floral symbols of China. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty declared the peony as the national flower. Currently, the Republic of China on Taiwan designates the plum blossom as the national flower, while the People's Republic of China has no legally designated national flower. In 1994, the peony was proposed as the national flower after a nation-wide poll, but the National People's Congress failed to ratify the selection. In 2003, another selection process has begun, but to date, no choice has been made.
The famous ancient Chinese city Luoyang has a reputation as a cultivation centre for the peonies. Through out Chinese history, peonies in Luoyang are often said to be the finest in the country. Dozens of peony exhibitions and shows are also annually held in the city.
The Japanese name for the peony "Ebisugusuri" means "medicine from China". In traditional folk medicine, peony root was used as a treatment for menstrual cramps, asthma and convulsions.
The peony is also the State flower of Indiana. In 1957, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to make the peony as the state flower of Indiana. It replaced the zinnia, which had been the state flower since 1931.
Peonies are also extensively grown as ornamental plants for their very large, often scented flowers.
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