Rose has always been considered one of the most beautiful and popular flowers, belonging to the queen of flowers. However, there is a rival in the world that has won the hearts of many beauty connoisseurs, and that is the peony. Cultivated varieties of peonies are well known to florists, gardeners, and landscape design professionals. At the same time, wild peonies, which are no less impressive, are not as well known and not as popular. As for Russia, 15 species of wild peonies can be found here.
Peonies have been famous for their unique beauty for many centuries and are often mentioned in legends and myths. One such legend is associated with the goddess Flora. The legend says that when the goddess was preparing to go on a long journey, she ordered her subordinates to find a worthy replacement for her. Many thought that the only possible substitute for Flora could be the beautiful rose. It was to her that the goddess entrusted the leadership of the plant kingdom. But only the peony opposed this divine decision, not recognizing the rose as its superior competitor. In response to the protests and disrespectful behavior of the peony, the goddess expressed her anger in a rage: "Let butterflies and bees never visit you!"
In Russia, peonies grow in the Far East, Transbaikalia, the middle strip, and the Caucasus. In May-June, peony flowers begin to bloom, emitting a sweet substance that attracts ants and other insects. Ants often protect the plant from pests, acting as its defenders. Thus, peonies were able to bypass the curse of the goddess Flora!
When peonies bloom, they emit a delicate and pleasant fragrance that attracts pollinators with their pink or creamy-white hues. Bumblebees, bees, and flies constantly fly around the flowers, while brightly colored scarab beetles and chafers prefer to feed on the peony petals. As they crawl over the flower, they inevitably become covered in pollen.
As a competitor of the rose, the peony also draws people's attention due to its medicinal properties. Peony roots have been used in medicine since ancient times. Scientists claim that the name "peony" comes from the Greek word "paionios," meaning "healing" or "curative." The plant was introduced into botanical literature by Carl Linnaeus.
In ancient Greek myths, there is a story about how the peony got its name. According to legend, there was a famous physician named Pean, who was a student of the god of medicine, Asclepius. One day, Pean received healing roots from the goddess Leto, the mother of the god Apollo. Upon learning this, the severely wounded god Aides turned to the doctor for help. Asclepius decided to punish Pean for helping the god of the dead and turned him into a flower with healing roots.
In Russia, peonies are often called "Mary's root." This name is associated with the name of the Virgin Mary, which is associated with spiritual purity. The second part of the name refers to the characteristics of the root. This folk name demonstrates the wise attitude of our ancestors towards nature and their knowledge.
Peony roots have long been used in folk medicine to treat various ailments, such as insomnia, epilepsy, pneumonia, diabetes, and stomach problems. However, the pursuit of healing peony roots can lead to ecological problems because the roots grow deep in the ground, and extracting them in large quantities can lead to the extinction of the plant. This is why many species of peonies are included in regional Red Books.
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