The edelweiss belongs to the large family of composite plants, the approximately 25,000 types are sub classified in 1,500 different botanical kinds. To the kind “Leontopodium” belong 30-40 different types, which primarily appear in Asia (Himalaya, Altai, Siberia, and China). However, the greatest biodiversity can be found in the Tibetan Highlands. After the last ice age an original type of the “Leontopodium” has migrated to the Alps and has split into two different kinds which differ from the rest and only appear in the Alps of central- and eastern Europe. The “Leontopodium Alpinum” appears in the Pyrenees, inner European Alps, Jura, Ligurian appennines, northern Balkan and the Carpathian Mountains. The “Leontopodium nivale” on the other hand grows in the Abruzzi, Shleijb near Ipek and in the Pirin mountains.
The botanical name „Leontopodium“ is derived from the characteristic densely furry, white hairiness (Greek Leon: lion, podion: tootsie). Further trivial names are wool flower, “Bauchwehblümerl”, Alpine Star, satin spar, rarely also silver star and “Wülblume” (in Switzerland). The name “Edelweiss” was born in Eastern Tyrol or Carinthia in 1785.
The Habitat of the Edelweiss.
The edelweiss thrives in full sun, on calcareous, weakly humous soil in heights ranging from approximately 1,500 up to 3,500 meters above sea level. It reacts sensitive to humidity. At locations with full solar radiation it develops its typical, white and bright leaves. At locations with medium solar radiation the leaves remain rather grey. The plant reaches a size of up to 20 cm. It blossoms from June to September. The edelweiss can be found on stony meadows, limestone rocks, rarely on alpine meadows. It grows unregularly distributed and it prefers limestone surroundings on heights from 1,500 meters up to 3,500 meters. Edelweiss shows a preference for siliceous locations as well as limestone.
Occurrence in Austria.
In Austria edelweiss can be found for example in Carinthia on “Gailtaler-Höhenweg”, “Blumenberg”, in Tyrol on “Blaser” or “Gamsjoch” , in Styria near “Tragöss” on a sea level of 2,000 meters. A small cultivable acreage is located near “Veronikas Kräuterhof” in Fischbach, Styria on a sea level of 1,000 meter.
Blossom and Leaves.
The blossom of the edelweiss is just a specious prosperity. This impression occurs for the reason of the white and furry bracts. The actual blossom resides together with hundreds of single anthodia in the middle of the star, together with the bracts they build a biological pollination entity. The blending white lustre on the bracts develops due to the reflexion of light on thousands of small air blisters, that are caught in the frizz hair of the plant. This lustre coat is a signal for insects looking for honey, and a protection against evaporation and thermal loss. Pollinators primarily are mayflies, skin flies, moths and bugs. Edelweiss growing in valleys grow bigger and seem green due to the less dense hairiness.