Monday, May 24, 2010

#291 Croatia...Thanks Tomislav!

This beautiful miniature sheet was issued on Mar.8, 2010 showing Croatian Peony.

Croatian peony sorts The family of peony (Paeoniaceae) which is composed of only one genus of about thirty herbaceous and about ten woody tree peonies spread mostly in hilly and mountainous areas in temperate zones of the north hemisphere. The Latin name of the genus, Paeonia, is derived from the name of Paeon, a mythical physician highly respected among Greek Gods. The Paeon’s teacher Asclepius, the God of medicine and pharmacy, became jealous of his pupil and intended to kill him. For that reason Zeus hid the young physician turning him into a curative plant with nicely smelling flowers – which, after him, was named Paionia (Peony). For thousands of years the symbolics of peony has been present in mythologies and legends of many peoples of Europe, Asia and North America: the peony is especially respected and admired in China and Mongolia.

Croatian Flora includes three species and several subspecies of peony - all of them strictly protected by the law. Wild Peony (Paeonia mascula (L.) Miller), known among people as the «male» peony, is a Tertiary relic (the remainder of pristine Flora before Ice Age) a very rare plant also in Croatia, protected by the law even since 1958. It is a perennial plant, 80 cm high, with tuberous, thickened roots. Numerous, not branchy stalks are upright and bare, overgrown by leaves to the top, on which only one flower develops. The leaves are threefold, composed of integral, shiny, green leaflets. The flowers, up to 10 cm in diameter, have many yellow stamens surrounded by five petals, in colours from pink to purple. The number of petals can sometimes spontaneously increase and all the cultivars have “full” flowers (the so called flore pleno, with numerous petals. The Wild Peony blossoms in April and May in sunny habitats of bright and warm woods and shrubberies, at higher altitudes. As curative plant the wild peony is in some areas used in veterinary and human medical care and is a very popular decorative plant.

Rare in Croatia is Common Peony (P. officinalis L.), known also as the «female» peony, because of its fragile structure. It reaches up to 60 cm, has leaves composed of leaflets split in three parts and dark red flowers with five petals. It grows in bright woods and on grassland, usually on limestones from France to Albania. In spite of its toxicity the common peony has been used in folk medicine for more than 2000 years as an effective remedy against convulsions, and today is mostly used in homeophatic remedies. It has been grown for centuries primarily for its curative properties but also for its beauty: one of the oldest cultivars in our gardens is Rubra Plena, a very nice plant with full, red flowers with numerous petals. Like other sorts of peony, also our sorts can be found in cultivation throughout the world, appreciated as exceptionally beautiful and long-lived decorative plants: if their root is not disturbed and the temperature does not drop below -15 oC, the peony in cultivation lives up to 50 years and develops into a quite impressive bush. Several hundreds of cultivars (sorts) of different peony species are known, which are in horticulture divided according to their flower shape (simple, double, or multiple petals) and their size (small, medium, large). Many species and cultivars – apart from magnificent flowers, are also favoured with pleasant smell, coloured leaves or prominent fruit, which makes them an irreplaceable part of flower beds of herbaceous perennials in temperate zones of all continents.

The 3.6k stamp on the upper left corner is from 1997 EUROPA:Story and Legend issue showing an illustration for Vladimir Nazor's story "Veli Jože" (Big Joseph) which is one of the best known legends in the Croatian literature and was written during author's stay in Istria. The story is a reflection of the political events in Istria at the beginning of the 20th century.

Vladimir Nazor (1876-1949) was the first head of state of the modern Croatia. A member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), he led the Croatian World War II wartime assembly, the ZAVNOH, and later served as the President of the Presidium of the People's Assembly of PR Croatia - the head of state of the People's Republic of Croatia. Today he is most remembered, however, as a well-known Croatian poet, writer, translator, and humanist.

Nazor's early work paralleled the rise of the Young Croatian literary movement. He acquired much literary popularity in Croatia writing about folk legends and stories. The tale Big Joseph (Veli Jože) (1908) is still popular: it features a helpful and kind hearted giant named Jože, living in the area around the town of Motovun (Inner Istria). His verses in Hrvatski kraljevi (Croat Kings) (1912) established him as the great patriot poet in Croatia. Istrian Tales (Istarske priče) (1913) revealed his storytelling skill and mastery. By illuminating the personality of the South Slavs through tales of Croatia, he contributed a great deal in creating the Yugoslav national consciousness.

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