Facts & Folkore:
The peony is named after Paeon, a student of Asculapius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. According to legend, when Paeon used a peony root to heal Pluto — the first time this was tried — Aesculapius became jealous of his talents and tried to kill him. To save Paeon, Pluto transformed him into a peony, because he knew it was a flower that people would admire and praise. In the other myth, the peony is tied to a nymph named Paeonia. Beautiful Paeonia attracts the attention of Apollo, who begins to flirt with her. When Paeonia realizes that Aphrodite is watching them, she becomes bashful and turns bright red. In anger, Aphrodite transforms the nymph into a red peony. Native to China, peonies have been cultivated for over two thousand years. Originally used as a flavoring for food, peonies were then bred for the imperial courts beginning in the Tang dynasty (618-907). Today, the fallen petals of Paeonia lactiflora are parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy. In ancient and medieval times peony roots and seeds were believed to cure over twenty diseases including epilepsy and snake bites! Peony water, an infusion of petals, was used for drinking in the Middle Ages. And peony root necklaces were often used to help children with seizures and teething pains.
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