European Peony European Peony European Peony European Peony

What are they?

With their very showy, large, colourful and glamorous flower heads, peonies are popular garden plants. Most of our garden plants originate from species that are native to mainland Europe, where they are mostly plants of grassy glades and clearings in woodland. Larger, tree-like species (usually qwith white or yellow flowers) are also grown and come from further east in Asia.

Where are they found?

Occasional cast-outs may turn up on waste ground or roadsides. Peonies are not included in any of the atlas floras for the East Anglian region, but this may simply be because relics or throw-outs do not typically last long outside of gardens and fail to become properly established. However, they are included here as they may occasionally be chanced across by inquisitive naturalists.


Peonies are readily recognised from other plants by their large, showy, bowl-shaped flowers with 'blousy' petals and many stamens. Peony species typically have five to eight petals, but garden cultivars often have many more and may be fully double. Peaonia officinalis is the most frequently grown species, but others are grown too and many garden plants may be hybrids of more than one species. Separating the species may require specialist keys, such as in Flora Europaea. Newly emerging leaves in the spring are often strongly red-tinged.

European Peony      Paeonia officinalis

Introduced as a garden ornamental and may rarely be found as a short-lived garden cast-away. Flowers April to June. Herbaceous perennials that die down over winter but may grow to 1-1.5m in height, with large, compound leaves, bearing elegantly rounded leaflets. Flowers may be white, or various shades of pink and red.

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Spring emergence