Thinking Citizen Blog — Late Spring Wonders: Rhododendrons, Peonies, Irises

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Flowers VIII: Late Spring Wonders: Rhododendrons, Peonies, Irises

At the Minute Man National Park, down the road from my home in Concord, the rhododendrons are in full flower and the irises and peonies are starting to pop. This is an absolutely spectacular time of year. Today, a few extremely random notes on each flower. Plus three questions. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate. The premise of this flower series is that environmental awareness begins with an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of the natural world.

PEONIES — the jealousy of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, and the mercy of Zeus

1. “The peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), a student of Asclepius, the Greek God of medicine and healing. In Greek mythology, when Asclepius became jealous of his pupil, Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.”

2. In 1903, under the Qing Dynasty, the peony was named the national flower of China, but its hegemony did not last. The People’s Republic has hotly debated the issue but not come to a decision. In Taiwan the plum blossom holds that honor.

3. The peony is the state flower of Indiana. “In Japan Paeonia suffruticosa is called the “King of Flowers” and Paeonia lactiflora is called the “Prime Minister of Flowers.”

NB: Has anyone ever counted the number of petals on a peony?

RHODODENDRON: the large clumps or clusters of five-petaled pink or white flowers are called “trusses”

1. “It is a horticultural or florists’ term, not a technical botanical one.”

2. Botanists call them “inflorescences.” Has anyone counted the number of five-petaled flowers in each? My last count was 20.

3. The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal, the provincial flower of Jiangxi in China, and the state flower of Washington and West Virginia.

NB: In Ireland, it is an invasive species so threatening that politicians have called for military action. “The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park has become so bad that nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right.” (Michael Heary Rae, County Kerry)

IRISES — THREE CONCENTRIC RINGS OF THREE — the sepals, the petals, the mysterious inner trinity

1. The droopy outer ring of three are the “sepals.”

2. The erect middle ring are called standards and are technically the true “petals.”

3. Parting the standards, I found within another ring of three, but I failed to find the technical term for them. Can anyone enlighten the rest of us?

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.