Why the Peony Declared Romania’s National Flower

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By Jill Brooke 

It’s not only that “peony” is the first or last name of over 100,000 Romanians (Bujor or Bujori). Or that the plant is the inspiration for Romanian folklore, music, literature, and art. All of that make it an obvious winner of any flower popularity contest in Romania.

But the country needed an official flower. The unofficial one — the dog rose — had not inspired many passions.

The Bucharest Faculty of Horticulture started its campaign for a national flower in 2013 with this winning pitch. There is the tulip for the Netherlands, Turkey, and Hungary. The chrysanthemum represents the Imperial Family of Japan. The rose is identified with the United Kingdom and Bulgaria,” they said. So Romania should have an  official national flower.

The Public Responds

There was an avalanche of support not only for the idea – but for the peony. This week, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis made it official, declaring the peony Romania’s national flower. 

According to reports, the law stipulates calls for an annual Festival of the Peony, both at the national and local levels. The festival will include scientific lectures on peonies coupled with displays of different cultivars.

Also included are regulations protecting natural reserves of peonies, a call to adapt different strains of peonies to Romanian soil, and to issue stamps featuring peonies.

Local authorities are also encouraged to plant public gardens and parks with rows of peonies. Unions of artists will also take part in local exhibitions featuring peonies.

The love of peonies spans hundreds of years. There’s also an old custom where peony flowers used to be added to the water in which newborn babies have bathed to make them stronger and protect them from evil.”  Furthermore, the peony has been valued as a plant with therapeutic properties in Romanian folk medicine since ancient times.

So Many Varieties

Adaptable, beautiful, and growing spontaneously across Romania, the peony has over 130 varieties and three distinct species in Romania. According to horticulture Professor Florin Stănică, since 2015, “the army has been using the peony to pay tribute to the Romanian soldiers who died on the battlefield, much like the poppy in Britain” and the U.S.  

Professor Florin Toma was also significant in the campaign, noting that, peonies “cover entire meadows, in places such as Zau de Câmpie, where we find the steppe peony, as well as in forests, where they grow all over the forest.”

“The peony grows in every single garden in Romania,” she said. “And the word features in all kinds of expressions such as “red as a peony” and “going  peony in the face.” She noted that there was once a custom to add peony petals to the bath water of newborn babies “to make them stronger and protect them from evil.” Romanian folk medicine valued peony roots and leaves as well.

The first official Romanian peony festival will be held in May 2023.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is currently an author and the editorial director of FPD. Jill is also the floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine. In addition she is a contributor to Florists Review magazine. 

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