Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society p. 326-328

H. R. Fletcher, F.L.S., V.M.H.



On July 21, 1938, MR. FRANK Ludlow and Dr. George Taylor were collecting in the Tsangpo Valley in the Kongbo Province of South-East Tibet. Near Gyala, under the dense shade of Quercus ilex forest, they stopped for a wayside lunch and soon realized that they were sitting on a fruiting paeony. The fruits were green and immature and although flowers were not to be seen, the natives affirmed that these were white. Two months later, when Ludlow and Taylor returned to collect mature fruits, they found that all the seeds had been shed.

Nine years later, on April 18, 1947, Mr. Ludlow and Col. H.H. Elliot, at a place called Tamnyen, found the plant again, just coming into flower, and a week later, April 24, they gathered beautiful flowering specimens at the spot where ludlow and taylor had found it originally in 1938. As the natives had affirmed, the flowers were white (Fig. 103). Finally, at Tamnyen, on August 5, 1947, ludlow and elliot collected mature indigo-blue seeds from the bright red capsules.

Although the collectors had stated in their field notes that the paeony reminded them of the beautiful white-flowered P. emodi Wall. of Kashmir, yet the flowering specimens (Ludlow, Sherriff and Elliot 13543), in spite of their white flowers, were identified with the rose-flowered P. mairei, a species described by leveille in 1915 from material collected by maire at So-chan in Yunnan, but which also is present in Szechwan, where Pere Farges gathered it near Tchen-Kevu-Tiu, and wilson near Tatsienlu. However, when the white-flowered paeony became established in cultivation (raised from seeds of Ludlow, Sherriff and Elliot 14231) in the garden of major and mrs. knox finlay, Keillour Castle, Methven, Perth, and in the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and probably elsewhere, and when the cultivated and wild materials were studied together, it was obvious that the Kongbo plant was neither P. mairei nor P. emodi, but was in fact a species new to science which it pleases me to name in honour of sir frederick c. stern, who has not only monographed the genus but who for many years has successfully cultivated a great number of Paeony species and raised some splendid hybrids.

Paeonia sterniana H. R. Fletcher species nova. Herba perennis. Folio, plerumque biternata, segmentis anguste ellipticis vel anguste oblongo-ellipticis, acutis vel acuminatis, ad 10 cm. longis, 2 cm. latis, petiolis 4-8 cm. longis. Caulis florifer uniflorus, 30-90 cm. altus. Flos patens 6-8 cm. diametro. Sepala 4-6, extimum lanceolatum foliolatum, intimum ovatum apiculatum. Petala alba, obovata ad 3-5 cm. longa, 2 cm. lata. Staminum filamenta alba, anthera flava. Carpella 3-4 glabra. Folliculi 2.5 cm. longa, c. 1 cm. diametro, oblongo-ellipsoidei, coccinei. Semina indigotica.

A perennial herb with glabrous stems 30-90 cm. high. Leaves alternate, biternate, including the petiole up to 30 cm. long; leaflets glabrous deeply cut into many narrow elliptic or narrow oblong-elliptic acuminate or acute segments up to 10 cm. long and 2 cm. broad, dark green above, glaucous below. Flowers solitary up to 8 cm. across. Sepals 4, the exterior lanceolate, foliaceous, longer than the petals, the interior ovate, apiculate up to 1.5 cm. long and broad. Petals white, obovate up to 3.5 cm. long, 2 cm. broad, thin and papery. Stamens with white filaments and yellow anthers. Carpels 3-4, glabrous, pale green. Follicles scarlet when mature, 2.5 cm. long, 1 cm. broad, seed indigo-blue.

s.e.tibet: Kongbo, Tsangpo Valley, between Tripe and Gyala, alt. 2,830 m., "Growing amongst shrubbery in stony places, like P. emodi, although not so big and anthers not so golden", April 24, 1947, Ludlow, Sherriff and Elliot 13543 (Holotype in Herb. Brit. Mus., Nat. Hist.); Tamnyen, alt. 2,890 m., fruiting specimen of L., S. & E. 13543, but taken at Tamnyen, "This paeony matures its seeds very early, much earlier than P. emodi of Kashmir, which it superficially resembles", August 5, 1947 (L., S. & E. 14231); Gyala, alt 2,830 m., lat. N. 29° 43', long. E. 94° 56', in dense shade of Quercus ilex forest, July 21, 1938 (Ludlow, Sherriff and Taylor 5350); September 26,1938, L., S. & T. 53503.

P. mairei and P. emodi sit comfortably in Section Paeon, subsection Foliolatae F. C. Stern. In this subsection the species are all herbaceous and the lower leaves are cut into distinct leaflets all of which are entire; P. mascula Miller is typical of the subsection. P. sterniana, on the other hand, has its leaflets very deeply lobed or toothed and is quite clearly a member of Section Paeon, subsection Dissectifoliae F. C. Stern. In this subsection its nearest of kin is P. anomala L., widely distributed from the Ural Mountains to Lake Baikal in Central Asia. The fades of the two species is very similar, though P. sterniana lacks the lines of very short hairs along the veins on the upper leaf surface, which are so characteristic of P. anomala. P. veitchii Lynch, which wilson introduced from Szechwan for veitch in 1907, also is closely allied but is at once distinguished by having two or more flowers to a stem, whereas the flowers of P. sterniana always are solitary.