Leontopodium alpinum (NL: Edelweiss / EN: Edelweiss / DE: Edelweiß / FR: Edelweiss, Pied-de-lion, Gnaphale à pied de lion, Etoile d’argent, Etoile des glaciers) , the symbol of the Alpine flora, is a well-known European mountain flower, belonging to the asteraceae family. The common name comes from German: "edel", meaning "noble", and "weiß" (also spelled "weiss") "white", thus signifying "noble whiteness". The scientific name Leontopodium is a Latin adaptation of Greek leontopódion (λεοντοπόδιον) "lion's paw", from léōn "lion" and pódion "foot" (diminutive of poús, podós "foot"). Leaves and flowers are covered with white hairs and appear woolly (tomentose). The dense hair appears to be an adaptation to high altitudes, protecting the plant from cold, aridity and ultraviolet radiation. Flowering stalks of Edelweiss can grow to a size of 3–20 cm. Each bloom consisting of five to six small yellow flower heads (5 mm) surrounded by bracts in star formation. The flowers are in bloom between July and September. The plant is unequally distributed and prefers rocky limestone places at 2000–2900 m altitude. Since it usually grows in inaccessible places, it is associated in many countries of the alpine region with mountaineering. It is not toxic, and has been used traditionally in folk medicine as a remedy against abdominal and respiratory diseases. Edelweiss is now a protected plant in many countries.
Image: Tschierv (CH) – 13/07/2012
© Johan Dierckx
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