The peony is one of the most Impressive wild flowers of the Greek mountains and nature has gifted Ikaria with an extremely rare, and one of a kind subspecies. We find it, with a lot of effort, on the rocky slopes of Atheras. It is an herbaceous plant, that prefers calcareous soils and shadowy places.
It’s over ground segment withers completely after the blooming period, while the remaining survives underground. Its peduncle is reddish and smooth. The flowers bloom one on every peduncle, have a diameter of 5-8 cm and are white, rose white, or have a slight rose hue at the base of the petals. It blossoms around April and May.
The peony does not seize to surprise even when it sheds its petals. Falling away they reveal its fleecy ovary sacs, shaped like almonds, full of big round red and black seeds. The plant that comes from these seeds will blossom for the first time after 4-5 years!
The peony gets its name from Paeon, student of Asclepius, that healed Pluto’s wound after him being injured by Hercules. Asclepius killed his student out of envy, but Pluto turned him into the flower that got his name.
The Peony had been always considered suitable for medical use. It was considered an antidote to fever, poisonings, and magic. It was suitable to treat kidney and intestinal diseases, colics, snake bites, and cured nightmares. The harvesting of the plant has been accompanied with strange folklore, like, for example, the roots should always be collected during night time. Modern medicine attests to the plant’s analgesic and calming properties.
But, the biggest threat for peonies are people. Its beauty and healing properties has always posed a temptation. Thus, at least in older times, when peonies could be found in abundance, people used to cut it or uproot it, to plant it elsewhere. The constant opening of forest roads has created great damage to its natural biotopes. In recent years peony populations diminish greatly, a fact the proves how vulnerable the plant is, from the moment people discover it.
In general, it is a beautiful flower that still maintains several primitive characteristics that verify the inveteracy of its species. It is highly endangered and measures should be taken in order to protect it and ensure its multiplication. In the opposite case, it will just be added to the list of all things lost that make both our island, and us, so much poorer.