Posted by: HortAlaska | March 12, 2021

Jealousy, Greek Myths and Peonies! Why Not?

Illieva, I. 2021. Names of botanical genera inspired by mythology. GSC Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences Online press. 14(3)8-18.

Author, Iliana Illeva, University of Forestry, Sofia, Bulgaria, explored the scientific names of plants and traced those that originated in Greek Mythology. Peonies are there, of course. The origin refers to the centuries-old use of peony roots as medicine.

“Peony or paeony: a flowering plant in the genus Paeonia, the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae. The name derives from the Greek word παιώνιος healing, saving, which has given to him by Theophrastus in honour of Paeon (Παίων), a mythical physician of the Greek gods. Paeon (also spelt Paean) was a student of Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing and is said to have discovered the uses of the peony root. Pluto saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius, who became jealous of his pupil, by turning him into the peony flower.”

The article includes a lot of genera familiar to northern gardeners: Achillea, Anemone, Angelica, Artemisia, Cypripedium (in Greek means sandal of Venus; today known as lady slipper orchid), Dianthus, Gentiana, Heracleum, Iris, Nymphaea, Oplopanax (Greek for panacea juice – cures all ills), Parnassia, Silene, Valeriana, Veronica and many more. An interesting read for anyone who likes history and etymology!

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