The Caucasian Representatives of the Genus Paeonia L.
L.M. Kemularia-Nathadse, Trudy Tiflis. Botan. Sada 1961
"... any species has importance for us, as a homogenous population occupying a concrete place within the frame-work of economic relations of Nature, and it does not even matter in what way it has arisen in this case"
The academician V. L. Komarov, "Study of plants species", 1940, p. 123.
Working on data pertaining to the Genus Paeonia L. for both editions of "Flora of Georgia" we encountered a necessity to acquaint ourselves with not only the Caucasian species of the Genus, but with all its representatives also. There are quite many monographs published abroad which are dedicated to this most interesting Genus (see below the chapter "Classification of the Genus"), but as far as Caucasian representatives are concerned, there is no literature of this kind available, not to say about some miscellaneous information published in different editions of "Flora".
It should be noted that Caucusus, nearly just as China, is considered the motherland of the Genus Paeonia L. as it is abundant in various ancient species of Paeonia L. and occurs to be one of the centers of origination of this Genus species. Besides, the Caucasian peonies are no less high ornamental than many of the best Chinese peonies and may serve as decoration of parks and gardens of cities and villages. Also, they may be used, as quite splendid objects for hybridization in order to obtain new ornamental varieties.
As to quantity of the Genus Paeonia L. species growing in Caucusus, the opinions of botanists diverge and some tendency is marked for underrating it (Stern, 1946, Grossheim, 1949, 1950). The reason of underestimating of this kind may be explained not only by various approaches to estimating of species volume, but also by quite obvious difficulties of exploring peonies, especially those species with yellowish blossoms which grow in the mountainous hardly accessible areas and which flower in early spring, when nobody yet thinks about expeditions. Besides, the peculiarities of peonies are such that in process of herbarizing of the plants, quite a lot of their morphological characters drastically change or even disappear. So, in order to obtain authentic information about these plants it is necessary to explore them in natural conditions.
Along with complete herbariums-peoneariums a necessity exists to have "vital herbariums", as it was expounded by N. I. Kuznetsov, according to whom, the specimens are to be replanted from their habitats so, that a precise indication of the natural area of growing, time of collecting and surname of collector, including a detailed description of the plant community to which the specimens belong, have been recorded.
We had an opportunity to study vital specimens of nearly all Caucasian species in their natural conditions with exception of the Talishinsky species and those included into a vital collection of the Institute of Botany and the Botanical Garden of Academy of Georgia. Also, herbarium (samples) of peonies preserved in main botanical institutes of USSR have been used by us.
In result of our exploration, it has been found out that from the general number of genus Paeonia L. species which is 45, according to the monograph by Stern (1946), and including some species which were regarded by Stern, as varieties of some related species, or presented by him as synonyms, and including some new species described by us in this work, there are 13 species growing in Caucasus, of which most of them have narrow-local areas of distribution and occur to be endemic species of the region. Comparing Caucasian species with representatives of the Genus from other countries, in particular from Chine, which herbarium samples are widely represented in the Botanical Institute named after the academician V. L. Komarov, and with live specimens of this institute's garden and the Moscow Botanical Garden allowed us to reach some general conclusions and work out a new system of the genus Paeonia L.
Our work was carried out by using the method of comparisons and the morphologic-geographical method of evolutionary series by V. L. Komarov. A species was assumed by us to be "a homogeneous population occupying a concrete place witthin the frame-work of economic relations of Nature and not even depending on which way it has arisen in.
The work submitted by us is a first attempt to present a monograph of the Caucasian representatives of the most interesting Genus in order to attract attention to these plants not only of specialists, but of amateur botanists, also.