Posted by: HortAlaska | April 23, 2022

Analyzing the red (pink) color of herbaceous peonies

Anthocyanin accumulation and differential expression of the biosynthetic genes result in a discrepancy in the red color of herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora Pall.) flowers. by Y. Wu, Z. Has, Y. Tang and D. Zhao. 2022. Horticulturae. Available online:

The scientists were interested in learning the differences in the pigment, anthocyanin, between a pink and red cultivar of herbaceous peonies. First, I will say, that what the authors call red, to me, is a fuchsia pink. I think more on the lines of Red Charm and Francois Ortegat when I think of red. It just shows how perceptions of color change around the world and with individuals.

They also state that the herbaceous peony can be divided into nine flower color categories: red, pink, white, blue, purple, green, yellow, black and double color. Red and pink are the most popular colors. Red symbolizes passion and affection, and pink symbolizes grace, gentility and happiness.

Anthocyanins contribute pink, red, purple and blue cyanic colors to petals. The authors sampled petals from early bud stages to nearly senescent stages, then analyzed them for anthocyanins, flavones and flavonoid. They found that the two cultivars did not differ in the type of color components. All had the same anthocyanin, flavone and flavonol components. Both cultivars faded over time. The difference between cultivars was a higher gene expression of anthocyanin synthesis early in bud development in the red cultivar when compared to the pink. Gene expression takes two stages- early and late. In the red cultivar, high levels of anthocyanin were expressed, whereas the pink cultivar showed low levels in early development. The anthocyanin development in the pink cultivar never caught up with the dark cultivar and it remained pale through the whole development from bud to senescence.


  1. Thanks for providing these reviews, Pat. Very interesting.


  2. A nice piece of research.

    Interestingly the use of the word ‘red’ to describe flower color in this article from China, is similar to our experience with those in Japan, who also describe flowers of gentiana as being ‘red’ then we would refer to them as fuchsia pink. Makes for some entertaining conversations for sure.


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