The edelweiss is such a pretty-looking flower, it makes us want to burst into song. It's famous as the inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein's eponymous ode to the Austrian Alps in their film "The Sound of Music. The song "Edelweiss" is sung with emotion by Captain von Trapp, before he escapes with his family to Switzerland. You'll find this plant flourishing in the Alps, but it will also grow surprisingly well in your back garden.
Colours and shapes
The Edelweiss, scientific name Leontopodium, is a small white, star-shaped flower with felt-like leaves, belonging to the daisy family Asteraceae. As is to be expected with its naturally mountainous habitat, the plant is a hardy perennial. It flowers from June to August.
The Edelweiss is the main symbol of the Alps, the mountain range in central Europe. In the 19th century it was adopted as the symbol of several mountaineering clubs, whose members would compete to pick the flower, since it grew in hard-to-reach places. Nowadays, the edelweiss features on the Austrian 2-cent euro coin — a little coin for a tiny flower.
The Alps are not the only place where this plant grows. In the high mountains of Asia, they've celebrated the small flowers for centuries. Traditionally, it was used as a medicine for stomach complaints and respiratory diseases, but the plant grew so popular that it almost became extinct from over-picking. Today, wild edelweiss has protected status in the Alps, but you can buy a cultivated variety to enjoy at home.