The peony received its Greek name from Paeon, an herbal physician of the gods. His knowledge of herbs empowered him as a great healer of the gods. As so many Greek tragedies go, jealousy arose—in this instance from the angry healing god who was now being shown up, Asclepias (which the Butterfly Weed is now named after, though I’m not sure why.) Zeus intervened and turned Paeon into a plant (the Peony) to save him from the wrath of Asclepias.

Greek mythology is obsessed with mortals, heroes and heroines being turned into assorted plant life due to dramatic, often tragic results of overpowering or unrequited love, or jealousy. It was a way to tell a story about their gods, and keep a loved one “alive.” It is amazing to me that these ancient names have in fact remained the root Latin name for most plants for over 3000 years!

Beyond the myth, the ancient Greeks did in fact use the Peony to treat over twenty different illnesses.

Peonies are native to China and cultivated widely in gardens there now-and have been for thousands of years! You will see them often used in Chinese paintings. Very early on they were traded to Greece-then Rome, Britain, and then of course all over the world. Peonies are the rare perennial that can live and flourish for over a hundred years if undisturbed. It is not uncommon to find them in the country where a house has crumbled and disappeared, but an old Peony clump remains.


“If you truly love nature you’ll find beauty everywhere.” -Van Gogh

The Waynedale News Staff

Kenton Neuhouser of Neuhouser Garden and Gifts

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