The Caucasian Representatives of the Genus Paeonia L.

L.M. Kemularia-Nathadse, Trudy Tiflis. Botan. Sada 1961


Chapter IV

Systematic analysis of Caucasian species of the genus Paeonia L.

3. Paeonia Wittmanniana Hartwiss

Hartwiss ex Lindley Bot. Regist. XXXII (1846) 9; Grossh. Opr. (1949) 44 pp. "Fl. Cauc." IV (1950) 12 pp.

Syn. P. Wittmanniana auct. cauc. non Stev. pp. ; P. abchasica Mitz. Grossheim in "Fl. Cauc." II (1930) 92; Schipchin. in "Fl. USSR" VII (1937) 33; Kemularia Nathadse in "Fl. Georg." (1948) 6; P. tomentosa Kolak. "Fl. Abch." IV (1939)121.

Perennials. The stem is 80-100 cm high, with a branchy rhizome and not large root thickenings; at both sides leaves are nearly monotonously dark-green almost smooth, shining, bare or with sparse fine hairs at the lower side; leaf-lobes are oval, obovate, ovate with a long-narrowed base, sharpened or slightly blunt at the apex. The blossoms are broad patent, with pale-yellow, nearly whitish petals which are oblong-oval or oval, nearly not narrowed at their base, with a broad and short claw; anthers are yellow, filaments are yellow or flesh-coloured up to the middle, ovary is ovate with dense yellowish-tomentose pubescence, stigmas are nearly symmetrical-laminate, almost sessile or upon a very short style. The fruits are oblong-ovate, divirgent, yellowish-tomentose downy. The seeds are blackish-bluish, IV-VI.

Habitat. From the intermediary to upper montane belt, in the forest, upon margins.

Original area. Georgia, Abchazia.

Type. In London. It was described from samples grown in a garden of the Agronomic Society in Chisvik (the outskirts of London). The rhizomes gathered by Wittman in Abchazia were used in this case as a planting material.

Studied samples.

Georgia, Abchazia. The outskirts of Gagri; mnt. Mamdzishkha, 3, VII, 1912, I. G. Gusev!

Gorge of the river Bzibi, 13 km along the road to Ritse, slopes and bays of the inversional depression; 22. V, 1948, N. Purtskhanidze!

near Sukhumi; mnt. Apiancha. a margin of the beech-forest, 22, IV, V, 1902, Voronov! 20, V, 1953, T. Dumbadze!

Geographic type. Montane Kolchidsky. General distribution. Endemic.

Remarks. A history of this species is quite complicated. A yellow-flowered Caucasian peony had been firstly mentioned in 1842 by Fisher (the St. Peterburg Botanical Garden) in his letter to the famous English botanist Hooker, in London, who was informed that Hartwiss,( the director of the Crimean Botanical garden) had received from the count Vorontsov, from Abchazia, many interesting plants collected by Wittmann who travelled along the Caucasian Black sea coast, (afterwards, he became a garner in Odessa). Among the plants received, there was a yellow-flowered peony (along with Epimedium pinnatum Fisch.) which was propagated by Hartwiss throughout European States afterwards.

In 1846, in "Botanical Register", being issued by Lindley in London, materials about a new yellow blossomed peony named P. Wittmanniana Hartwiss, were published. This peony was described from samples grown in a garden of the Agronomic Society (London suburb.), and these samples had been obtained from the collection of Wittmann from Abchazia. In the diagnoses, it was indicated that the new peonies fruit was downy. Nevertheless, from a picture published the fruit looked naked.

It has happened so, that independently from each other, two authors described a yellow-blossomed peony found at different places and periods and had given to it the same name. A circumstance of this kind could not but mislead botanists, and some disagreement ensued among them subsequently in future. The majority of botanists acknowledged the authority of Steven and used, as a species name P. Wittmanniana Stev. Others botanists, especially from abroad, recognized the priority of Hartwiss, supposing the name Wittmanniana Stev. to be a synonym of the former or, at the most, considered it a variety with the name (var.) nudicarpa.

The author of the newest monograph about the genus Paeonia L. Stern (1946) has made a further step joining all yellow-blossomed peonies from Caucasus, excepting P. Mlokosewitschii Lomak from Lagodekhy, with P. Wittmanniana Hartwiss, to which P. Wittmanniana Stev. and P. macrophylla Lomak have been subordinated as its two i varieties by him.

We firmly object to the enlargening of species carried out in this way, especially, in case when such ancient representatives of the genus Paeonia L. as the Caucasian peonies are concerned. All Caucasian peonies with yellow flowers and growing at their natural habitats distinctly differ from each other with the complexes of morphological characters and the areas of distribution.

We quite agree with Stern (1946), who asserts that the priority concerning the species name and authorship belongs to Hartwiss, and that the peony with downy fruits and growing in Abchazia, but not in Talish or the North Iran, should be identified as P. Wittmanniana Hartwiss, and that the peony of Steven should be renamed, but not as a I variety, but as a self-dependent species.

It is quite obvious for us that Hartwiss (1846) and Steven (1848) described two different peonies from different places, Abchazia and Meskhetia, respectively, having given these peonies the same name.

We suppose that the identification of P. tomentosa (Lomak.) N. Busch from Talish with P. Wittmanniana Hartwiss is a result of an obvious mistake which is that in a box with plants sent to Hartwiss from Abchazia, there was a yellow-blossommed peony placed by a sample of P. Epimedium pinnatum Fisch, and the latter was known to grow in Talish only and, afterwards, botanists decided that the peony of Hartwiss should originate from Talish too; moreover, it was known that a yellow-blossommed downy-fruited peony had been found in Talish in 1888, and in the North Iran, in 1860.

But, at present, we are well aware of that, firstly, in the West Transcaucasus (Abchazia, Adjaria, etc.), the new peony species [Epimedium L. - Epimedium colchicum (Boiss) Trautv.] has been found and depicted, which is closely related, being almost indistinguishable, with Epimedium pinnatum Fisch. growing in Talish? secondly, in Abchazia, there is a yellow-flowered downy-fruited peony growing in Abchazia which is now under study by the prof. Mischenko and which is named P. abchasica Miscz. thirdly, it is well-known that Wittmann gathered plants near Tiflis, in Akhaltsikh, along the Black-Sea coast, and had never been in Talish. Hence, we must arrive at the conclusion that Hartwiss made his description of P. Wittmanniana in Abchazia and as to P. tomentosa(Lomak.) N.Busch. it grows in Talish and the North Iran; these two species noticeably differ from each other with the complexes of morpTioTogical features and with separated areas of distribution.