What is an Edelweiss? Why do we love it?
I love edelweiss and most women who are of German, Austrian or Swiss descent also have an affinity for this flower. But what is it and why do we love this seemingly fuzzy ugly flower so much? I mean we love it so much that we can't help buying anything with it on it... or we get it tattooed on our bodies... or we have it encased in glass and wear it around our necks! I mean... this is a strong love for flora here.
So what is an Edelweiss you ask? According to Wikipedia, it "is a mountain flower belonging to the daisy or sunflower family Asteraceae. The plant prefers rocky limestone places at about 1,800–3,000 metres (5,900–9,800 ft) altitude. It is non-toxic and has been used in traditional medicine as a remedy against abdominal and respiratory diseases. 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."
Why do we love it so much? I personally think it's a simple reason: heritage and home. This goofy yet sweet little flower is a special reminder of our heritage. When we see it, it makes us smile. And during WWI and WWII Alpine soldiers carried a sprig of edelweiss to remind them of home. It was traditionally given to them by a female friend, or sister... so it's no wonder we still use it as a reminder of die Heimat.
Here are some other cool facts about Edelweiss that make us LOVE IT EVEN MORE!
- The edelweiss’s scientific name is Leontopodium alpinum.
- It can be found at high altitudes in the mountains of Europe, Asia and South America. The original home of the edelweiss is in the high plateau of the Himalayas and Siberia, but the plant “migrated” to Europe during the Quaternary ice ages.
- Towards the end of the Second World War, the Edelweiss became the symbol of the German resistance against Nazism. The “Edelweiss pirates” were groups of young workers who had turned against Nazism and were active as a kind of urban guerrillas against the regime.
- The movie, The Sound of Music, almost caused the flower to become extinct because so many tourists were picking them. But It can no longer be regarded as an endangered species.
- The edelweiss is a perennial, which means it will flower year after year but must reseed itself. Continuous picking of the flowers from the same plant will cause it to die off. In other words, look, but don’t touch!
- Despite its inconspicuous appearance it is esteemed (chiefly by the Swiss) as a symbol of purity and inaccessibility.
- The edelweiss is about 6 inches tall with 5-15 woolly-white velvety floral leaves and 500 to 1000 tiny florets grouped in several yellow disk-like heads (between 2 and 10 of them) surrounded by silvery, greenish, kinda seafoamy colored bracts. (A bract is a typically small modified leaf or scale.)
- The edelweiss is fertilized by flies.
- At the 2015 Grammys, Lady Gaga sang a medley of songs from The Sound of Music, including the iconic song, Edelweiss and crushed it! (She didn’t crush the flower, she crushed the performance… you know what I mean.)
- The edelweiss isn’t really the prettiest flower in the world… It’s probably one of the farthest from pretty! But that is why we love it. Because it has more charm, history and meaning behind it than out right beauty (and it looks great illustrated! Or as a Clip!)
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As always, ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. - Erika