Dr. Fangyun Cheng is a professor at Beijing Forestry University where he teaches Ornamental Plant Propagation and Nursery Management. Dr. Cheng’s research interest is focused on the breeding and propagation of ornamental plants, especially Paeonia. He is a leading authority and researcher on tree peonies.
Fangyun grew up in a village in Gansu province in Northwest China near where there are still wild populations of the tree peony P. rockii. Fangyun’s interest in peonies was stimulated early in life by his grandfather who grew various ornamentals, including two classic cultivars of tree peony.
Fangyun Cheng obtained his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the Biology Department of Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou, China where he majored in Botany. For the Ph.D. degree he majored in Ornamental Plants in the College of Landscape Architecture of Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, China. Following completion of his Master’s degree in 1987, he started his research work on the Mudan as the tree peony is known in China and he taught biology for approximately 10 years in Lanzhou. Following completion of his Ph.D., he spent two years as a special researcher of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), at Shimane University, Matsue, Japan, studying relationships of Japanese and Chinese cultivars of P. suffruticosa. Since 2000, Dr. Cheng has been a professor in the College of Landscape Architecture of Beijing Forestry University.
Dr. Cheng’s research is mainly on tree peonies endemic to China. It is focused mostly on two topics, breeding and propagation of both species and cultivars directed towards the sustainable development of the peony industry in China. Studies by Dr. Cheng on Rockii hybrids led to the publication of the book “Chinese Flare Mudan” in 2005.
He has received many awards for his teaching and research on peonies. Dr. Cheng’s research group is composed primarily of M.Sc. and Ph.D. students working on a wide variety of research topics on tree peonies.
The propagation of tree peonies is difficult and slow and therefore Dr. Cheng has spent many years investigating methods to improve peony propagation techniques including micro propagation by tissue culture. He also works on the domestication of tree peonies from wild peony species. Other studies include the genetic and hormonal controls of re-blooming in tree peonies, the genetic relationships among tree peony species and hybrid origins of different cultivars using gene sequencing and markers. Dr. Cheng has done extensive studies on the endangered tree peony, Paeonia rockii and worked to conserve this and other endemic species. In addition to working on peonies as ornamental plants, Dr. Cheng has also been investigating the potential of tree peonies as an oil seed crop in China.