Myths, Magic and a little History

Peonies were already popular in China and grown for cultivation some 2,000 to 4,000 years ago depending on the source of information. The Chinese name for the Peony is "Sho Yo", or "Most Beautiful". Poetry, legend and art all refer to the flower and to this day, the peony is used in many Chinese decorations. Japan was the following country to be captivated by this flower after Chinese Buddhist monks brought tales of this flower to Japan.

The Greek Gods on Mount Olympus also encountered this flower and according to legend were responsible for giving it its name. 

According to Greek mythology, the Peony was named for Paeon, a physician. Poor Paeon made the mistake of getting caught up in a feud between two gods. Paeon healed Pluto’s wounds after a fight with another god using a plant found on the slopes of Mount Olympus. As a result, Paeon made an deadly enemy of the opponent god, but was saved from the fate of dying as other mortals, by being turned into the very same plant which Paeon had used to heal the first god.

Legend and superstition have always been close to the peony. According to legend, powerful forces reside in the blossom of a plant that glows in the dark on the night of a full moon. Seeds from certain peonies radiate a pale light in the darkness. To keep the magic, the roots could only be dug during the night. According to the legend, punishment for disturbing a peony during daylight hours was terrible; woodpeckers would appear and peck the culprit’s eyes out. However, the Boon Pioenrozen staff have ample experience with disturbing peonies and still enjoy excellent eyesight !

The peony was already described by Pliny in 87 AD and continued to be popular during medieval times. Charlemagne reportedly described it as "the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks", which probably best characterizes how herbs played such a role in both the kitchen and for medicinal purposes an important part in everyday life.

Since 1830, the genus "Paeonia" belongs to the "Paeoniaceae" family (before then it belonged to the "Ranunculaceae" family). The plants belonging to the family of "Paeoniaceae" grow on the northern hemisphere.  The genus "Paeonia" has approximately 30 - 42 varieties, which can be divided into herbaceous and woodly peonies. Woodly peonies (tree peonies) have often more flowers per stalk. Tree peonies are, contrary to its name, seldom higher than two meters and are effectively a shrub. 






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