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Switzerland’s National Treasure: The Edelweiss Flower

How do you test whether or not someone experienced a period in their life where they obsessively watched The Sound of Music? Simple. You break into the ‘Edelweiss’ song and see if they join in. Besides being a tune that gets stuck in my head at least once a year (mainly because Christopher Plummer was a dreamy hunk with a great voice), the Edelweiss flower is also the iconic image and national flower of Switzerland.

Thanks to the power of folktales and just enough science, this flower overshadowed many of its mountainous contendents, gaining cult status in the mid-19th century. As it adorns Swiss airlines, coins, and even the Swiss tourism office, it remains an important symbol of Swiss culture. But how did this come to be? Although there is a strong association with the Alps, plot twist, Edelweiss actually originates from the Himalayas and Siberia. Read below to learn how this fluffy flower became Switzerland’s national treasure and when and why you should send Edelweiss to your special someone with Russian Flora

Close up of the Edelweiss flower

What is the Edelweiss Flower? 

Edelweiss’s scientific name is Leontopodium alpinum, and it belongs to the sunflowers and daisies family. To be technical, it is not a single flower but can have 50 – 500 tiny florets on 2 – 12 yellow flower heads. The white fluffy ‘petals’ surround these florets, creating a star shape. But, despite its delicate appearance, the Edelweiss is one tough cookie, able to withstand extreme weather conditions. 

In an attempt to ‘hype’ up the Edelwiess’s exceptionalism, literary descriptions say that the flower emerges directly from bare rock. But, realistically, they just tend to grow in rocky soil. The famous American writer, Mark Twain, described the flower as the ‘ugly Swiss favorite’ after going on a trip through the Bernese Alps in 1881. Fortunately, his criticism came too late as Swiss society had already widely accepted its mystery and uniqueness. 

The History of Switzerland and the Edelweiss: 

Many legends surround the journey of Edelweiss. But, like I said, there are just enough facts for us to indulge in these folktales. Many scientists believe that the flower migrated from Asia to the Alps during the Ice Age. And Naturalist Kondrad Gissner was recorded as the first to identify Edelweiss in the 16th century. It was then given many names until 1785 when ‘Noble White’ and ‘Edelweiss’ finally stuck. 

Alpinism had a significant role in giving this flower its most prominent and well-known meaning – courage and strength. The 1861 Edelweiss book tells the story of a young man who risks his life to pick Edelweiss flowers for his girlfriend as proof of his love and bravery. Legends then spread far and wide about brave men who died while picking flowers in the Alps. To say the least, these stories were dramatized like a 19th-century Gossip Girl spinoff. And for a while, it put the Edelweiss in danger as tourists picked them as souvenirs. 

This brought about the passing of the world’s first environmental law in 1878, banning visitors and locals from digging up the flower from its roots. Today, it is no longer endangered, and you can even grow it in your own garden! But the flower is still under protective status. 

Edelweiss flowers growing on the alps mountain ranges.

The Perfect Occasions for Sending the Edelweiss flower: 

Despite being a symbol of strength and courage, Edelweiss holds many other significant meanings. Making it a diverse flower gift to suit multiple occasions. Here are a few ways that you can make your recipient’s day with Edelweiss: 

Show Your Love and Devotion: 

Yes, I’m going to bring up another legend. A Snow Queen who once lived in the highest peaks of the Alps had suitors climb up the mountain to profess their love and ask for her hand in marriage. There was only one suitor she wanted to marry, but the goblins who guarded her ice castle threw him off a cliff into the abyss. The first tear she ever shed fell onto a rock as a small silver star. Which is believed to be the very first Edelweiss. 

Although you wouldn’t have to climb the most dangerous parts of the Swiss Alps to profess your love, gifting your partner with Edelweiss can represent deep loyalty and devotion. Making it a meaningful gift for anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and other romantic occasions. 

A happy couple standing on a hill overlooking the alps.

Show Your Admiration: 

Regarded as a noble flower, Edelweiss is a great gift of admiration. Do you have someone in your life that you look up to? Or maybe one of your closest friends has just reached an important goal or milestone? This flower can show them that you’re proud of them and admire their hard work. It’s an ideal gift for anyone in your life. From a colleague who just received a promotion to a close friend who just started their own business!

Encourage Someone to Persevere

Many believe that the Edelweiss flower evokes positive emotions and brings good luck to the homes it adorns and those who surround themselves with it. If someone you know needs a push in the right direction, or just some motivation to persevere, Edelweiss is the perfect flower to send ‘good vibes’ their way! 

Modern-Day Uses For the Edelweiss Flower: 

As I’ve mentioned before, Edelweiss is a highly durable plant. And an abundance of medicinal properties almost makes me believe the tall tales of its magical abilities. And I suppose there is some magic involved when you consider a few of its modern-day uses. 

The Germans named this plant the ‘Cache Flower’ when they used it to aid the symptoms of tuberculosis. Swiss farmers would also burn the flower as they believed its properties would treat their cows who had problems with their udders. 

Today, its natural antioxidant properties are a vital ingredient in many sunscreens and anti-inflammatory creams. Producing luteolin, bisabolene derivatives, beta-sitosterol, and chlorogenic acid, its extracts are also commonly used in cosmetic anti-ageing products. 

Before researching this extraordinary flower, Edelweiss was just a song sung by my crush. But, now, I know that there is so much history behind its exceptionalism, making it a wonder not only for the Swiss but also for the rest of the world. I hope you’ve learned a little something from this blog and find an occasion to send Edelweiss to your special someone! 

Now that you’ve learned about the Edelweiss flower, what’s next?

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