North American Peonies

I threatened to continue the peony thread, and today I will keep good on that promise.

There are only two species of peony outside of the Asian/European mega continent. These are Paeonia brownii (Brown’s Peony) and Paeonia californica (California Peony). Brown’s peony is found in all the mountain ranges (of California) from central California north to British Columbia and west into Nevada and Wyoming. This species grows from 200-3000 meters elevation and prefers open dry pine forests and scrub. California peony grows from sea level to 1500 meters in the coastal areas of California from the San Francisco Bay area to northern Mexico in the San Jacinto Moutains. This species prefers chaparral and scrub areas and I have notices it favors oaks in the San Jacinto range. These are long-living, relatively slow growing perennial plants. I have never grown the plants from seed, but have transplanted root-stock successfully.

These two species are herbaceous and the flowers are not nearly as showy as many other species, which is kept them from being used extensively in landscaping or ornamental gardening. However the plant has a long history of use as a medicine. All Native American groups within the ranges of these plants used them as medicine. Currently, there is a limited number of herbalists, mostly those who have the plant locally available, use the plant as medicine.

I have used the plant as medicine from nearly 15 years. I have primarily used California peony, but also have some experience with Brown’s peony. I like to make a fresh plant tincture with the roots of the plant and use it for many types of pain, especially spasmodic pain of the uterus and GI tract. Other types of conditions are spasmodic cough and some types of headaches. I also slice and dry the roots and use them in my raw herb prescriptions, mostly as a replacement to the Chinese red peony root. I have peeled the bark off it a small amount of roots and used this as a replacement for Chinese white peony.

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