Did you know that
the famous flower of Alps Edelweiss was actually imported
from Asia sometime within the past centuries?
- Leontopodium alpinum
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Gnaphalium leontopodium and Leontopodium alpinum are the two
main varieties of this flower. The name "Edelweiss" date from 1784 and comes from
German "edel" noble and "weiss" white and was popularized in
the XIXth century as high mountain exercized its irresistible attract on people
from the plain. The genus Leontopodium (from Greek "foot of lion")
finds its origin in mountains of Asia where it's represented by more than thirty
species whereas only two exist in Europe. When cultivated in plain, Edelweiss
grows higher and loses the density of its so beautiful cottony coating of its
Edelweiß (noble and white), the queen of the mountain
flowers, is a small, white and woolly flowering plant that grows high in the rocky cliffs of
the Austrian and Bavarian alps. In the alpine tradition, one says that "Nur
die Elite kann Edelweiß erreichen" (only the elite can reach the
Edelweiß). The connotation and innuendo is that only the experienced
mountain climbers, the elite, can climb up to the Edelweiß.
Alpine folklore explains that a young man will climb the steep cliffs, pluck an
Edelweiss and bring it to the "Mädchen," his beloved. Tales
of love and tragedy surround this daring feat of climbing the Alps, fetching the
Edelweiss as proof of pure love and worthiness. Even today there is a Rock/Rapp
song called "If you really love me, bring me an Edelweiss," sung in
English by an Austrian group.
The latest research, however, initially in a book dating from 1910, but ony
recently recovered, indicates that Edelweiss, the flower, was actually imported
from Asia sometime within the past centuries. What a travisty of justice for
virually the national symbol of Austria and the Alps!
Bad enough that Edelweiss may not have originated in the
alps, but the final
irony is that due to ecological problems in Europe, and the alps in particular,
Edelweiss, the flower, is being considered an endangered species of
vegetation. Because of this, already in the fall of 1990, a number of Edelweiß
plants were "evacuated" to New Zealand, to a new, protected home, for
preservation and propagation.