Leontopodium nivaleLeontopodium nivale, commonly called edelweiss (German: Alpen-Edelweiß, English pronunciation ), is a mountain flower belonging to the daisy or sunflower family Asteraceae. The plant prefers rocky limestone places at about 1,800 – altitude. It is non-toxic and has been used in traditional medicine as a remedy against abdominal and respiratory diseases. The dense hair appears to protect the plant from cold, aridity, and ultraviolet radiation. It is a scarce, short-lived flower found in remote mountain areas and has been used as a symbol for alpinism, for rugged beauty and purity associated with the Alps and Carpathians, and as a national symbol, especially of Romania, Austria, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Switzerland. According to folk tradition, giving this flower to a loved one is a promise of dedication.
NamesThe flower's common name derives from the German word "Edelweiß", which is a compound of edel "noble" and weiß "white". In Romania it is known as Floare de colț which means Cliffhanger's flower. In the Italian speaking Alps the flower is referred as "Stella Alpina", while in the French Alps as "Étoile des Alpes", both names meaning "Star of the Alps".
Edelweiß was one of several regional names for the plant and entered wide usage during the first half of the 19th century, in the context of early Alpine tourism. Alternative names include Chatzen-Talpen ("cat's paws"), and the older Wullbluomen ("wool flower", attested in the 16th century).
The scientific name is a latinisation of the Greek leontopódion, "lion's paw".
TaxonomySince 1822, Leontopodium has no longer been considered part of the genus Gnaphalium, but classified alongside it as a distinct genus within the tribe Gnaphalieae. In 2003, Leontopodium alpinum was re-classified as a subspecies of Leontopodium nivale. Thus, the alpine edelweiss is currently recognized as being divided into two subspecies, Leontopodium nivale subsp. alpinum (Cass.) Greuter and Leontopodium nivale subsp. nivale.
DescriptionThe plant's leaves and flowers are covered with white hairs, and appear woolly (tomentose). Flowering stalks of edelweiss can grow to a size of 3 – in the wild, or, up to in cultivation. Each bloom consists of five to six small yellow clustered spikelet-florets () surrounded by fuzzy white "petals" (technically, bracts) in a double-star formation. The flowers bloom between July and September.
ConservationLeontopodium nivale is considered a least concern species by the IUCN. The population of this species declined due to overcollection, but is now protected by laws, ex situ conservation and occurrence in national parks.
CultivationLeontopodium nivale is grown in gardens for its interesting inflorescence and silver foliage. The plants are short lived and can be grown from seed.
Chemical constituentsCompounds of different classes, such as terpenoids, phenylpropanoids, fatty acids and polyacetylenes are reported in various parts of edelweiss plants. Leoligin was reported as the major lignan constituent.
In the 19th century, the edelweiss became a symbol of the rugged purity of the Alpine region and of its native inhabitants.
In Berthold Auerbach's novel Edelweiss (1861), the difficulty for an alpinist to acquire an edelweiss flower was exaggerated to the point of claiming: "the possession of one is a proof of unusual daring." This idea at the time was becoming part of the popular mythology of early alpinism. Auerbach's novel appeared in English translation in 1869, prefaced with a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: :"There is a flower known to botanists, one of the same genus with our summer plant called "Life-Everlasting," a Gnaphalium like that, which grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolese mountains, where the chamois dare hardly venture, and which the hunter, tempted by its beauty, and by his love (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens), climbs the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the flower in his hand. It is called by botanists the Gnaphalium leontopodium, but by the Swiss Edelweisse, which signifies Noble Purity.";Before 1914
Symbolic use-image gallery
File:Leontopodium-alpinum04.jpg| German Alpine Club logo pin.
File:50 lei. Romania, 2005 a.jpg| On a Romanian fifty lei note.
File:Uimla.gif| Logo of the Union of International Mountain Leader Associations.
File:Hrvatska gorska sluzba spasavanja logo 0110 1.jpg|Logo of Croatian Mountain Rescue Service
File:ZRHEdelweiss.jpg| Aircraft livery of Edelweiss Air.
File:ЦМ ВОВ. Кабина Ju-88 (Германия).jpg| Nazi-era nose art on a bomber from the "Edelweiss Wing" (KG 51).
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-402-0265-03A, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 88, Startvorbereitung.jpg| Nazi-era photo with KG 51 insignia on a Ju 88 bomber.
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-340-0175-20A, Im Westen, Geschwader--Staffelabzeichen.jpg| 1939 Nazi-era aircraft nose art.File:Ciecm.JPG| French mountain troops school emblem.
File:LogoRMSV.tif| Logo of German sports association RMSV.
File:Edelweiss-Auszeichnung 3 Sterne.png| Rank insignia in the Swiss postal service.
File:Grenzschutzbergführer.JPG| German Federal Police rank insignia patch.
File:Stamp of Kyrgyzstan 034.jpg| Kyrgyz postage stamp from 1994.
File:DBP 1975 867 Wohlfahrt Alpenblumen.jpg| West German postage stamp from 1975.
File:Swiss-Commemorative-Coin-2004b-CHF-20-obverse.png| On 2004 Swiss coin.
File:100 CHF 1925 681736.png| On 1925 gold 100 Swiss francs coin.
File:1schilling1983back.jpg| On 1983 Austrian schilling.
File:Coin of Kazakhstan 500-Edelveis-rev.jpg| Kazakhstan 500 tenge coin.
File:CHE OF9 General.svg| Four-"Star" rank insignia of the top Swiss general.
File:JgB23.jpg| Austrian army JgB 23 emblem.
File:2. JaboG 34.png| West/German military "Allgäu" fighter/bomber group 1958–2003.
File:Gebirgsjägerbrigade 23 (Bundeswehr).svg|West/German military 23rd mountain rifles troops emblem.
File:Szarotka.png|Insignia of the Polish Army Podhale Rifles.
File:Szarotka 21BSP0.svg|Insignia of the Polish Army 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade.
File:17osn Edelweiss.jpg| Russian military 17 ОСН "Edelweiss" emblem.
File:Wappen StbB transparent dev.gif| Austrian army JgB 6 emblem.
File:Blason Vaujany.svg| Arms of Vaujany, France.
File:Wappen at au.png| Arms of Au, Austria.
File:Actual_Brasov_county_CoA.png| Arms of the county of Brașov, Romania.
File:Dramsha gerb.jpg| Arms of Dramsha, Bulgaria.
File:Blason de la ville de Bonnefamille (Isère).svg| Arms of Bonnefamille, France.
File:Blason ville fr Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (Haute-Savoie).svg| Arms of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France.
File:Blason vile fr Les Carroz d'Arâches.svg| Arms of Carroz d'Arâches, France.
File:Wappen Eisenaerzt.png| Arms of Eisenärzt, Germany.
File:Edelweiss Biertender.jpg| Logo of Edelweiss Beer.
File:Ulrich Wille.jpg| General's "star" on the saddle of World War I-era Swiss commander Ulrich Wille.
File:Engelbert Dollfuss.png| On the hat and collar circa 1933 of Austria's Engelbert Dollfuss.
File:CohMont1.jpg| Imperial Roman tombstone of Austrian soldier Marius son of Ructinus.File:Farm Edelweiss in Namibia Bird Eye View.jpg|Bird's eye view of farm Edelweiss 11 km west of Stampriet / Namibia