(syn. P. mascula hellenica*, P. corallina flavescens, P. mascula icarica)
* Paeonia mascula subsp. hellenica Tzanoud. Cytotax. Study Gen. Paeonia in Greece: 36. 1977, nom. inval.
Before 1977, the only white flowered Mediterranean Paeonia known were P. clusii from Crete and P. rhodia from Rhodes. A white flowered plant had been found by in Sicily and described by Carl Presl in 1822 as P. flavescens. Presl visited Sicily in 1817 and collected this on the Nebrodi mountains in the north-east of the island. Subsequently other collectors have found this at other places in the same general area of northern Sicily.
In the living state the flowers are white (sometimes hinted or outlined with a trace of pink on the petal edges). When dried however, herbarium specimens become yellow, whence the epithet of “flavescens“. During the 20th Century white Paeonia of the same affinity (the mascula group) have been found in Greece in Laconia (Peloponnese), Taygetos, Attica and on the islands of Euboea and Andros.
The Greek plants were named P. mascula subsp. hellenica by Tzanoudakis* in 1977 and additional names were published based on leaf differences observed between different populations. Subsequently Tzanoudakis himself reduced the names to varietal ones (of mascula hellenica), acknowledging that “there do not appear to be any characters by which these white-flowered Greek peonies can be separated from the Sicilian one”. The name of P. mascula hellenica has since been declared invalid and thus Presl’s earlier name of flavescens takes priority.
Regardless of all of this, we offer plants of the superb Sicilian white Paeonia with glabrous stems from 30-60 cm tall and greyish-green leaves which are glaucous below, on petioles which are usually red in colour but which can be green. The leaf veins can be hairless or pubescent in different plants.
There are large (to 12cm), spreading, slightly crinkled flowers of purest white (a few have a tiny mark here and there of pink on the petal edges, this is as they should have, this is a species characteristic and not hybridity) with a large boss of red and yellow stamens in the centre.
This is fine, outside in the garden in standard Paeonia conditions of good drainage, fertile soil and occasional or dappled shade. Despite its rare and precious nature, it isn’t a plant for a pot if you want to see it in its full glory. This does start into leaf early in the year and is thus subject to all that the weather in early spring can throw at it, but it is perfectly cold hardy in the UK.
This is a different stock to the flowering sized ones offered in May and June 2015 (which were Raised from seed ex JCA 0.746.520 Italy, Sicily). This new stock is traceable to the Mount Prophet Elias populations on the Greek Island of Evvia (Euboea). The plants are 5 year old seedlings. Expect flowers after one more season’s growth with you.