There are two kinds of Peony. This is a robust and very decorative perennial, rich and unusual in coloring, the fine foliage setting off the dark flowers to perfection. The roots are woody, the stems smooth, from eight inches to a foot and a half tall, and the leaves are smooth, rich green, but not shiny. The nodding flowers are an inch and a half across, with five or six greenish-purple sepals, five or six petals, rich deep-red, tinged and streaked with yellow and maroon; dull-yellow stamens and green pistils. The whole flower is quite thick and leathery in texture and rather coarse, sometimes so dark that it is almost black. The flowers are often fragrant, but the plant has a disagreeable smell, something like Skunk-cabbage, when crushed. The large seed-pods, usually five, are thick, leathery and smooth, with several seeds and are a very conspicuous feature, the stems drooping as they ripen and the pods resting on the ground in big bunches. The whole plant is rather succulent and the foliage and stems are more or less tinged with red and have a "bloom," especially on the sepals. This grows in all sorts of places, in the hot plains of the south and at the edge of the snow, in northern, mountain canyons. In the south it blooms in January and is sometimes called Christmas-rose. The root is used medicinally by the Spanish-Californians and by the Indians, "to give their horses long wind." These plants were named in honor of Paion, the physician of the gods.
Wild Peony- Paeonia Brownii, BUTTERCUP FAMILY. Rananculaceae.
There are only a few kinds of Actaea, tall perennials, with large, alternate, thrice-compound leaves and small, white flowers, in short, terminal clusters. The sepals number about four and resemble petals; the petals are from four to ten, or sometimes none, with claws; the stamens are numerous, with conspicuous white filaments; the one pistil has a broad, somewhat two-lobed, stigma, and the fruit is a large, showy, red or white, somewhat poisonous berry, containing many, smooth, flat seeds.