Bulletin #321 March 2002
First Generation Peony Crosses
the 70 or so species, subspecies and varieties of the Genus Paeonia
only a limited number of these wild plants have contributed genes to
the hybrid peonies we grow in our gardens. This is primarily because,
in the past and even now, it is difficult to obtain true plants of
the Genus Paeonia. There are two reasons why true peony species have
been so difficult to obtain. One, is that many peony species grow in
areas that until recently have been inaccessible to the West. Second,
wild peonies that are sold by nurseries are often hybrids rather than
true species because when in cultivation they cross-pollinate
readily, if pollination is not controlled.
A.P. Saunders was one of the few hybridizers who was able to obtain a
limited number of true peony species. That's why most of the hybrids
now available were produced by crosses made by Professor Saunders or
came from plants he hybrided. (Please see The Best of 75 Years,
published by APS, for some of the articles he has written about his
the past 10-12 years I have accumulated, most from wild seed, nearly
all species, subspecies and varieties of wild peonies. From these
plants I try to produce true species seeds by crossing a plant of a
particular species with a plant of the same species. I also
cross-pollinate species to try and produce hybrids that look like the
true species but are easier to grow than the true species (a good
example is Paeonia parnassica). There is also a chance that
hybrids produced in this manner could shed light on the evolution of
some peony species.
following is a list of some of the successful crosses that I have
made and a description of the plants produced:
steveniana (P. wittmanniana var nudicarpa)I have not grown
any crosses with P. steveniana to flowering but it does cross
readily with many species. I have crossed it successfully with all
subspecies and varieties of P. wittmanniana. I've also readily
crossed it with P. parnassica. P. mlokosewitschii and
P. mascula ssp. russoi.
wittmanniana var. macrophyllaThis variety also crosses
readily with P. parnassica though I have not grown any of the
progeny to flowering.
cambessedesii I have only attempted to cross P.
cambessedesii with P. mlokosewitschii and P. mascula
ssp. russoi. Both crosses produced many viable seeds but I
have only grow these crossed with P. mlokosewitschii to
flowering. All plants that have flowered look intermediate between
mlokosewitschii and cambessedesii. They have pale yellow to ivory
flowers with reddish-pink veining. All are pretty but are nearly as
difficult to grow as cambessedesii.
also have two plants which came to me as seeds of P.
cambessedesii. Both are obviously hybrids one looks nearly
identical to cambessedesii but has white flowers, the other is more
than twice as large as cambessedesii but it has leaves and flowers
that are similar to cambessedesii. Both plants produce viable seeds
and both plants are easier for me to grow than cambessedesii. This
year I back-crossed both plants with cambessedesii and they both
produced viable seeds.
obovata This is a pink form of obovata that I grew from
seed collected on Mt. Fuji in Japan. This year I successfully crossed
it with P. mairei.
obovata var. willmotiae I have only successfully
crossed this variety with two species, mlokosewitschii and
parnassica. This cross with mlokosewitschii only produced one
seed and the subsequent plant only survived for two years. The cross
with parnassica produced many seeds but none of the plants have yet
flowered. These hybrids all look primarily like obovata but appear to
be easier for me to grow than either parnassica or obovata.
japonica I made many crosses with this species but the
only successful cross I made was with P.mlokosewitschii and
that cross only produced one viable seed. After 3 years the plant,
from that seed, looks intermediate between the two species. Hopefully
it will flower this year.
mascula ssp. russoi I have three forms of russoi, one from
Sicily, one from Sardinia and one from Corsica. All cross readily
with one another. I have also successfully crossed these forms of
russoi with P. mascula ssp. hellenica and P. mairei.
though none of the plants produced has as yet flowered.
potaninii var. trollioides I have crossed this plant
successfully with P. potaninii. P. lutea and P.
potaninii "alba." This year I also crossed it with P.
rockii ssp. linyanshanii.
mascula ssp. arietina I have only tried to cross
this subspecies, P. parnassica. It crosses as readily with
parnassica as it does with other plants of its own species. I have
great hopes that these hybrids will have flowers like parnassica but
will be as easy to grow as arietina, but so far none of them have
emodi I primarily only try to cross emodi with other
plants of the same species since true emodi seeds are often hard to
find. This year I have seedlings from emodi x parnassica. The
seedlings look intermediate between the two species.
brownii Of all the crosses Anne Oveson and I have made
with brownii the only (known) successful cross was made by Anne on a
brownii flower with P. peregrina pollen. The seedlings were
intermediate between brownii and peregrina but they only survived for
sinjinjangensis For the past two years I have crossed this
plant successfully with P. anomala.
peregrina Since peregrina has often been used for peony
hybridization I have only attempted to cross it with one other
species, parnassica. This cross has produced many seeds and
will hopefully one day produce a plant that is as easy to grow as
peregrina but with flowers like parnassica.
parnassicaThis is a very difficult plant for me to grow and
the seed pods often dry up shortly after the plant has flowered. This
year I obtained one seed with a cross with P. mascula ssp.
have also crossed a few species with some of my hybrid peonies. So
far I have only had one plant bloom and that was from a cross I made
between "Anika," my own P. mlokosewitschii hybrid
and P. mascula ssp. russoi.
have been sending species peony pollen to Peter Waltz for some years.
He has had a great deal of success using this pollen to fertilize
hybrid and lactiflora peonies. There is a good chance that from his
efforts one day we will have genes from many more species peonies
represented in our garden hybrids.