Carsten Burkhardt's Web Project Paeonia - The Peony Library

index 0602

Stapf O,1918, Paeonia peregrina." ,Bot Mag. t. 8742.* vol.144,

Acceptance of the name [P. peregrina] in this sense by Otto Stapf in Curtis's Botanical Magazine 144: t. 8742 (1918) has led to current usage.

Otto Stapf (1857-1933) greatly influenced later work on the genus Paeonia, which he studied critically at Kew for many years, although he never lived to complete an intended revision. He was born in Ischl, Austria, studied at Vienna under Anton Kerner von Marilaun, whose research assistant he was from 1882 to 1889 and whose narrow specific concepts he imbibed, and then in 1891 came to England for employment as an assistant in the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. From 1909 to 1922 he was Keeper of the Kew Herbarium. In his retirement he edited Curtis's Botanical Magazine vols. 148-156 (1922-1933), for which he wrote most of the text, including that on Paeonia tomentosa in vol. 155: t. 9249 (1931). His careful identifications and annotations of the specimens in the Kew Herbarium and his discussion under t. 9249 of the taxonomic importance of the carpels bear witness to his intimate understanding of the genus. This discussion merits reprinting here:

“A glance at the present plate and at t. 6645 of the Botanical Magazine will reveal a striking resemblance between the plants figured, the only obvious difference being the presence of a dense tomentum in the carpels of the former and its complete absence in the latter. Other minor differences there are, as in the colours of the stamens and leaves and their venation, but they are slight. The contrast in the carpels, however, is important and it constitutes a problem which recurs in connection with other peonies and affects their taxonomic status and na ming. There are, in Paeonia, at least four pairs of types whose members are stated to differ almost solely in the presence or absence of a tomentum to the carpels. I enumerate them here adding the areas they inhabit:



P. paradoxa Catalonia, southern France from the eastern Pyrenees eastward. Central Italy (Abruzzi).

P. humilis (Syn.: P. leiocarpa). Central Spain to eastern Portugal, Leon, Aragon, Valencia and Murcia, southern France, eastern Pyranees and Cevennes.

P. Russi Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica.

P. Corsica (Syn.: P. Cambessedesii). Baleares, central and southern Corsica, northern Sardinia.

P. intermedia Finnish Lapponia, northern Russia, Altai, Turkestan.

P. anomala Ural, Altai to Baikal, Turkestan (?)


P. tomentosa Hinterland of the southern Caspian Sea, Abchasia (?)

P. Wittmanniana Western Transcaucasia and western Caucasus to Abchasia.

“The contrast between these types is the more striking as no intermediate states seem to occur. They are mutually exclusive over large areas and may therefore be considered as genetically fixed within these areas. At the same time they are coexistent in other portions of their respective areas; but whether they occur there in close proximity and in what proportion, or whether they inhabit edaphically identical stations we do not know. From this limited geographical association some authors have concluded that each such pair represents one ‘variable’ species. Now all the plants enumerated above have been in cultivation, and most of them for a long time, without showing — so far as our records go — any abrupt or gradual change from one type to the other, so that we may assume that the differentiation into contrasting types is under all circumstances highly stable. At the same time it might be argued, that, although these eight peonies represent definite fixed types, those of each pair have a common and recent origin. As, however, a sharp distinction of species with glabrous and with tomentose carpels runs through the remainder of the genus though not resulting in the appearance of parallel forms tike those under discussion, we may assume that the causes, which underlie this phenomenon of parallelism, date far back in the history of the genus.

“Space forbids to discuss the problem referred to in detail in this place. It may suffice to state that a careful examination of those plants in the herbarium and in the living state has convinced me that they are not all ‘parallel’ to the same degree, and that they ought to be accepted as specifically distinct. The parallelism is least pronounced in the P. Russi - P. Corsica, so that it is surprising that its components should ever have been linked as subspecies or varieties of one species, whilst it is undoubtedly manifest in the other three pairs.”

From the book:

Peonies of Greece

A taxonomic and historical Survey of the Genus Paeonia in Greece

William T. Stearn and Peter H. Davis