Characteristics of the snow flower (Leontopodium alpinum)

This little flower that we see in paintings and memories, hard to find in the meadows and shrouded in legends, is known as snow flower. The beauty of this flower is indisputably undeniable, which makes it one of the queens of the mountain, a natural jewel that lives in the peaks.

If you are curious to know more about this flower, be sure to read this article. You will fall in love!

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Origin and history

This flower whose scientific name is Leontopodium alpinumis also known as Flor de las Nieves or with the German word Edelweiss.

This name derives from the German composition of edel which means noble, and Weiss which means white. Its name can therefore be translated as “White Nobility”. While its scientific name Leontopodium alpinum derives from the Greek and its meaning is “Lion’s Foot of the Alps”, alluding to its resembling the claws of a lion.

It comes from Asia and is also found in ice age in the high European peaks. This flower grows in high alpine meadows and high mountains, forming small clusters.

He is considered a symbol of bravery and courage, which is why in some regions it is also known as Silver Star. is the faustrian national flower that’s why you can find it on their 2 euro cent coins.

However, it was used as an emblem by the soldiers who were part of the German mountain army during the 1st and 2nd world wars.

Characteristics of the snow flower

Photography: Meneerke bloem

taxonomy

  • Order: Asterales
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Genre: Leontopode
  • Species: Leontopodium alpinum

As you have seen, it is closely linked to the mountain since it only grows in high mountain areasbeing able to find it at altitudes above 1,000 meters and can even live at more than 3,500 meters.

Although the snowflower may seem like a fragile plant, it is nevertheless very resistant because it can withstand very cold temperatures, where in summer the temperatures can be below 0°C, thanks mainly to its thick sap that allows it to withstand low temperatures.

It is a plant that does not have much height, being among the 10 and 30 centimeters, so you will have to be attentive if you want to find it. It has a short, woody stem that allows it to withstand the strong winds of the mountainous areas where it grows.

Its leaves are lanceolate, and have a particular hairiness that protects them from frost but also from drying out.

The flowering period of the Leontopodium alpinum It is between July and September. This beautiful flower is composed of small florets grouped in heads of 7 to 9 heads.

Each of these flower heads bears between 30 and 60 yellow tubular flowers. Large white bracts, often mistaken for petals, surround these clusters.

The fruit of this plant is an achene, which means has only one seed, about 1.5 millimeters long and brown in color. Be crowned by a plume, which promotes easier seed dispersal.

As of today you can find this beautiful flower in the Pyrenees, in particular in the National Park of Ordesa y Monte Perdido. More rarely, you can see them in the Sierra Nevada and in the mountains of northern León. Outside of Spain, you can find it in large mountain formations in Europe and the Himalayas.

The Flor de las Nieves, because it has been heavily depleted for many years, has disappeared from many areas. For this reason, it has become a protected species throughout Spanish territory and collection is prohibited.

Curiosities and legend of Edelweiss

There are many stories around this beautiful flower, but we are left with one of the best known.

This legend says that a star confessed to the Moon that he wanted to leave the sky to become a flower because he envied everything that lived on Earth.

Therefore, the angry moon decided to send the star to one of the highest mountains on earth. Then, bathed in the white mantle of snow, it became one of the most beautiful flowers, with its moon-colored petals.

What this star did not know was that after all, in this place, it would always be alone, almost invisible to people, there, at the top of the mountains.

Beyond myths and stories, Edelweiss has been a plant that has been present in the culture. For example, in the smiles and tears movie there is a song with this name, which made this flower famous all over the world. On the other hand, the musician Moondog composed a song inspired by this flower and entitled “High on a Rocky Ledge”.

As another curiosity, in the Asterix in Helvetia comic stripAsterix and Obelix must take a trip from their village to the Roman province of Helvetia, where they must find the Edelweiss Flowers (which they call Silver Star) as they are the ingredient that their druid Getafix can brew a potion of healing.

As you have seen, the Flor de las Nieves is undoubtedly very unique, because it is both beautiful and resistant, it is also a symbol of bravery and courage, and it has many stories and legends around him. A flower fit for kings.

If you are lucky and venture into areas where this may be, keep an eye out for enjoy one of the greatest treasures that you can find on mountain tops.

Did you know this flower and would you dare to take a trip to see it?

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