Peony: A flower with a story

June 5th is Pentecost Sunday. In the Bible, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit first appeared to the apostles of Jesus Christ in the form of flames of fire. But what does this Christian festival have to do with our world of flowers? As you can already guess, today is about the beautiful peony. In this blog you can find out where it comes from, what it has to do with Pentecost and what healing powers it has.

The Origin of the Peony

Peonies have been known and loved for thousands of years. The various species are native to almost all subtropical mountain regions, from southern Europe to Asia Minor, the Caucasus, East Asia and the west coast of North America.

The most well-known species are perennials whose above-ground shoots die off in winter, as well as species that form shrubs and thus become woody in part. The starting point for most breeds is the so-called common peony or the milky-white peony.

The peony in Asia

In Chinese culture, the native shrub peonies have been cultivated for over a thousand years. Already during the Song Dynasty (916 – 1278 AD) there were already 39 different breeds.

There the peony is still a symbol of wealth, happiness in love and female eroticism. Up until a few hundred years ago, it was also a symbol of the emperor.

Peony A flower with a story - Peony: A flower with a story
Chinese document on peonies – Source: CC0

The peony in Europe

Peonies were already cultivated as garden plants in ancient times. In particular, the coral and common peonies found in the Mediterranean region were cared for. The plant, also known as peony, was able to conquer the Alps mainly thanks to the Benedictine monks. It is said to have a healing effect, which made it of great interest to monasteries and their cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants. For this reason, the flower is sometimes referred to as the Benedictine rose. From the monasteries, it then made its way into cottage gardens, where it was very popular because of its beauty, but also because it was unpretentious and long-lived.

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Woman with Peonies – Source: CC0

In Europe, this flower stands for salvation, security and motherly love. This association stems in part from the flower’s healing properties as well as its high status in the Christian church.

The peony in Greek mythology and the Christian Church

The botanical, Latin genus name of the peony is Paeonia. This can be traced back to the Greek word “paionia”, which stands for Paian, the physician of the gods from Greek mythology. According to legend, he healed the god of the underworld Pluton, who had been wounded by Heracles (the Greek name for Hercules). The well-known Roman poet Virgil (the great role model of Dante Alighieri, the creator of the “divine comedy”), described in his poetry the divine and healing effects of the Peony.

The name of the peony goes back to the following story in Christian mythology:

While traveling through Galilee, Jesus met a woman named Magdalene, or sometimes Ruth. She wanted to become his disciple but was tied to one place by her children. After three days, Jesus left them again.

One day, when a disciple of Jesus passed by again, he was telling about the crucifixion of Jesus. Magdalena went into her rose garden and wept with sorrow.

Days later, when another disciple passed by the house, he told them that Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. When Magdalena then went into her rose garden, she was amazed: beautiful, opulent roses were blooming everywhere, but they had no thorns.

Those were the first peonies.

The woman thought: “God took away the thorns and turned suffering into joy”.

Only God can remove thorns from rose bushes, raise His Son from the dead, and give people eternal life after death.

The peony as a medicinal plant

The peony has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient times. Its ingredients are considered antibacterial, vasoconstrictive, blood pressure raising, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory. Due to the many active ingredients it contains, the plant parts of the peony have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1200 years. However, it has completely disappeared from western medicine. This is also because all usable parts of the flower are slightly toxic. Another, simple but serious reason: The effectiveness of the peony in medicine is not scientifically proven in any of the areas of application. Today, peonies are only used in homeopathy.

As you can see, the peony is a versatile flower that has always fascinated people and even today many people count it among their favorite flowers. We have listed some reasons why we love peonies here. But now enough with the theory, because as the saying goes: The proof of the pudding is in the eating! See for yourself why this plant has been cultivated and valued for over 2000 years.

Until the next excursion into the world of flowers.
Your bloomies

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Pink Peonies

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