This week the peonies started blooming. They are so fragrant and remind me of peonies my grandma used to grow along the side of her home and in her flower garden in the backyard.
One of the themes for the Nature Photo of the Week is "Fragrant" - so this seemed like a fitting photograph to choose.
Each of the peonies had ants in them. When I was younger, I didn't like the ants crawling over the flowers - especially after the flowers had been picked and were inside in a vase on the table.
I was told that the ants helped the petals open. According to the Heartland Peony Society, though, peonies don't rely on ants for the flowers to open. The Society said, "Some people think ants are required to open the flowers, but this does not to appear to be true .... Peonies produce small amounts of nectar and other ant attractants to encourage ants to help in opening the dense double flower buds found in many peonies." So, it looks like they are beneficial, but not necessary to the flowers opening.
Interestingly, the Society noted that, "Ants may be found covering certain varieties and avoiding others, this is totally normal." They also recommended not trying "to get rid of the ants on your peonies. This is a natural and temporary activity. Once the buds have opened the ants will disappear - also normal."
I also was interested in the meaning and symbolism of peonies. According to Teleflora, "With a recorded history that dates back thousands of years, it’s not surprising that even the mythology surrounding the origin of the peony has multiple versions.
"One legend has it that the peony is named after Paeon, a physician to the gods, who received the flower on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. And another tells the story of that same physician who was 'saved' from the fate of dying as other mortals by being turned into the flower we know today as the peony."
The peony is the traditional floral symbol of China, the state flower of Indiana, and the 12th wedding anniversary flower. They are known as the flower of honor and riches. Teleflora noted, "With their lush, full, rounded bloom, peonies embody romance and prosperity and are regarded as an omen of good fortune and a happy marriage."
Another thing I was curious about was if peonies were edible. According to What's Cooking America, "In China the fallen petals are parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy. Peony water was used for drinking in the middle ages. Add peony petals to your summer salad or try floating in punches and lemonades."
Each week, new things are blooming and the landscape is changing. I've enjoyed spending more time outside and am looking forward to taking more photos of nature this week. I'll see which ones fit with the themes remaining for the year.