F.C. Stern A Study of the Genus Paeonia
39. P.Clusii F. C. Stern in Bot. Mag. t. 9594 (1940).Syn. P.cretica Tausch in Flora, 11, i, 86 (1828) ; Halacsy, ConsP.Fl. Graec. 1, 35 (1901) ; Gandoger, Fl. Cretica, 5 (1916) ; F. C. Stem in Journ. Roy. Hort. Soc. 56, 73 (1931); G. P.Baker in Gard. Chron., Ser. 3, 92, 61, fig. 32 (1933) ; non Sabine (1824) ; F. C. Stem in Journ. Roy. Hort. Soc. 68, 129 (1943).P.feminea Mill. var. cretica (Tausch) Giirke in Richter, PI. Europe. 2, 403 (1903), quoad pi. cret. P.officinalis L. sec. Sibthorp & Smith, Prodr. Fl. Graec. 1, 369 (1806), quoad pi. cret. non L. P.officinalis var. cretica (Tausch) Ascherson & Graebner, Syn. Mitteleur. Fl. 5, ii, 556 (1923).P.officinalis var. glabra (Boiss.) Hayek, Prodr. Fl. Penins. Balcan. 1 (in Fedde, ReP.SP.Nov. Beih. 30, i), 298 (1927), excl. syn. P.cretica Sabine.P.peregrina Mill. sec. Raulin, DescriP.Phys. lie de Crete, Bot. 398, (1869), excl. syn. pro parte ; Gard. Chron., Ser. 3, 89, 397, fig. 213 (i93i)-P.peregrina var. cretica (Tausch) Huth in Engl. Bot. Jahrb. 14, 270 (1891). P.peregrina var. glabra Boissier, Fl. Orient. 1, 97 (1867). P.cretica Clusius, Hist. 1, 281 (i6oi).
Description. Stems glabrous, pink, 20-30 cm. high. Lower leaves biternate, but with leaflets dissected into 30 or more segments, some of which are themselves lobed or toothed ; segments narrowly oblong to elliptic, tapering to the acute-acuminate apex, mostly 4-6 cm. long and i-i-7 cm. broad, green above, glaucous beneath, quite glabrous, or, rarely, slightly hairy below. Flowers 7-9 cm. in diameter. Petals 6-8, obovate to broadly obovate, rounded, white, rarely flushed with pink. Stamens about 2 cm. long, filaments pink, anthers golden-yellow. Carpels 2-4, densely white-tomentose, about 2 cm. long at anthesis, style and stigma crimson. Follicles about 3 cm. long.
Distribution. island of crete : White Mountains, Sieber (K), G. P.Baker (K), P.Davis 1/92 (K) ; Homalo, 1150 metres, Trevor-Battye (K) ; Hierapetra, near Males, Leonis (K), between Kalamarka and Males, 670 metres, Gandoger 5766' (K) ; Mt. Haghim Pneuma, Atchley 555 (K) ; Amalos, Reverchon (K) ; Mountains of Lakous, Reserchon (K) ; Lassithi Mountains, Heldreich (K).
Paeonia Clusii is allied to the Officinalis group but possesses certain unique characters which distinguish it from other paeonies in this grouP.It is a diploid whereas P.officinalis is a tetraploid. The flowers are white, sometimes flushed with pink. In the living plant the pink colour of the stem and petioles and the cup-shaped flower give this paeony a distinctive appearance unlike any other paeony in this grouP.It differs from P.officinalis in that it is a dwarfer plant, with smaller, narrower segments and white flowers. It is distinguished from P.humilis var. villosa by its glabrous leaves which only occasionally are slightly hairy and by the segments which are generally narrower and more acute, and by its white flowers.
Clusius in 1601 is the first to mention the common white paeony of the mountains of Crete. No botanist seems to have seen the white paeony again until in 1817 F. W. Sieber of Prague collected specimens in the island : from these specimens Tausch (1828) published the first scientific description giving the paeony the name of P.cretica, the name that Clusius had used two centuries before.
So far all is plain sailing with regard to nomenclature but unfortunately complications ensued.
Caspar Bauhin in 1623 described the Clusian paeony, giving it a composite name, " Paeonia folio subtus incano flore albo vel pallido." Then Morison, in 1715, suggested that a paeony with [end page 102] hairy leaves and a pink flower becoming white with age, then growing in the Botanic Gardens at Oxford, might be the Cretan paeony of Clusius and also the plant with the composite name of Bauhin. Anderson (1817) referred to the Oxford paeony as P.arietina Oxoniensis, still confusing it with the Cretan paeony. Then Sabine (1824) obtained from the Oxford Botanic Garden a pink-flowered paeony which he thought was the plant to which Morrison referred and had it figured as Paeonia cretica. This paeony was unfortunately not the Cretan paeony described by Clusius.
I am indebted to Mr. W. T. Steam for his research in unravelling the above confusion.
It appears, therefore, that a new name is required for Clusius's Cretan paeony since Sabine's description in 1824 is based on a wrongly identified plant and antedated by four years that of Tausch (1828) which correctly describes the Cretan plant. Since P.cretica is unfortunately not valid, as Mr. W. T. Steam suggests, the obvious name is P.Clusii, which commemorates Clusius's great work and his first description of the plant.
Clusius mentions that Honorius Bellus, an Italian physician practising at Camea, said the colour of the flowers was not always white though he, Bellus, only saw white ones. The late Mr. S. G. Atchley of the British Legation, Athens, found this paeony in the deep gorge of Samaria on the south of the island in 1930. Mr. G. P.Baker in the Gardeners' Chronicle of January 28, 1933, describes the finding of this paeony on the outskirts of a primeval forest of Cupressus sempervirens var. horizontalis in the same place. Mr. Steam reports that there are examples of this species in the Natural History Museum of Vienna coming from the island of Karpathos, lying between Crete and Rhodes.
Both Mr. Atchley and Mr. Baker obtained seed and distributed it to gardens in England.
There is a fine collection of dried specimens in the herbarium at Kew, and there is a specimen in the Shuttleworth Herbarium in the British Museum dated 1846 under the name of P.peregrina var. glabra : under which name also a specimen is preserved in the herbarium of the Musee nationale d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, collected by E. Reverchon in 1884 from Mt. de Lakous, Crete. This specimen is exceptional in that it possesses two flowers on one stem.
P.Clusii grows about 1 ft. high ; it has finely cut leaves and white cup-shaped flowers with golden stamens, the flowers standing up well above the foliage ; it is a most beautiful plant for the garden. It is not, however, a very strong grower in cultivation but it is so charming that it is worthy of a deal of trouble. It does best in a sheltered place where the early morning sun does not reach it. It flowers in English gardens in mid May. [end page 103]