AskDefine | Define edelweiss

Dictionary Definition

edelweiss n : alpine perennial plant native to Europe having leaves covered with whitish down and small flower heads held in stars of glistening whitish bracts [syn: Leontopodium alpinum]

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl de Edelweiß, from edel + weiß.


  • /ˈeɪ.dəl.vaɪs/


  1. A European perennial alpine plant having downy leaves and small white flower heads in a dense cluster

Scientific names


A European perennial alpine plant




  1. Edelweiss.

Extensive Definition

''For other uses, see Edelweiss (disambiguation).
Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), one of the best-known European mountain flowers, belongs to the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The name comes from German edel (meaning noble) and weiß (meaning white). The scientific name, Leontopodium means "lion's paw", being derived from Greek words leon (lion) and podion (diminutive of pous, foot).
Flowering stalks of edelweiss can grow to a size of 3–20 cm (in cultivation, up to 40 cm). The leaves appear woolly because of the covering of white hairs. The flowers are felted and woolly with white hairs, with characteristic bloom consisting of five to six small yellow flower heads (5 mm) surrounded by leaflets in star form. The flowers are in bloom between July and September. It is unequally distributed and prefers rocky limestone places at 2000–2900 m altitude. It is not toxic, and has been used traditionally in folk medicine as a remedy against abdominal and respiratory diseases.
Edelweiss is a protected plant in many countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, Spain (Ordesa National Park), Slovakia (Tatra National Park), Slovenia (in Gorizia and Gradisca since 1896, in Carniola since 1898), Austria (since 1886) and Romania (since 1933).
It usually grows in inaccessible places, which is why it is associated in many countries of the alpine region with mountaineering. Its white colour is considered in Switzerland a symbol of purity and due to its beauty, it obtained its Romanian name, floarea reginei (Queen's flower).


The story goes that once, long, long ago, the Alps were far taller than they are these days. In those days, atop one of the snowcapped, precipice filled mountains lived an Ice Queen. She was said to be fair as snow and hauntingly beautiful. She was served by faithful gnomes, who lived with her on those slopes.
The Queen would sing melodiously and her sound would lure many a shepherd to lose his way in the mountains and come upon her abode. However beautiful she was, she had a flaw; her heart was frozen cold as if it were made of pure ice.
She would play with these hapless shepherds who sought her voice for a while. When she got tired of this play, the gnomes would toss the men off the cliffs to their death.
So she lived, through long ages alone except for poor companionship of her slaves.
It so happened that one of these shepherds, following her voice, entered into her abode. There was nothing different about him, this Man, nothing special, nothing noteworthy. But the Ice Queen steadily grew to love this man.
She would sing and he would sit awed beside her throne for hours and days to end. They had their love.
But the gnomes grew jealous, fearing that one day the Ice Queen may marry this mortal. Thus they conspired and threw him headlong into the valley below, where his heart burst asunder.
Seeing this, for the first and last time, the eyes of the Ice Queen warmed. Her heart melted a little and a single teardrop fell off her eternally beautiful sad cheeks.
It is this tear that has become the edelweiss , the most beautiful flower of the Alps.
Possibly the etymology of the word too is derived from this fable.

Symbolic uses

  • On the Austrian euro coins, a picture of Edelweiss is used on the two-euro-cent coins.
  • On the Romanian 50 Lei banknote.
  • Edelweiss Society
  • In Austria, Edelweiß is also a brand of beer named after the flower.
  • Edelweiss is the unofficial national flower of Switzerland.
  • It appears in the logos of both the German and Austrian alpine societies.
  • In its bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics the city of Salzburg uses an Edelweiss flower as the emblem.
  • Edelweiss Air, an international airline based in Switzerland, is named after the flower, which also appears in its logo.
  • Edelweiss is a theme and song ("Edelweiss") in the musical and movie The Sound of Music, which takes place in Austria.
  • "Bring me Edelweiss" is the best-known song of the music group Edelweiss.
  • The Edelweiss was established 1907 as the sign of the Austrian-Hungarian alpine troops by Emperor Franz Joseph I. These original 3 Regiments wore their edelweiss on the collar of their uniform. During World War I (1915) the Edelweiss was granted to the German alpine troops, for their bravery. Today it's still the insignia of the Austrian, Polish, and German alpine troops.
  • Edelweiss was a badge of Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweisspiraten)—the anti-Nazi youth groups in Third Reich. It was worn on the clothes (e.g. a blouse or a suit).
  • The Edelweiss flower was the symbol of Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS Gebirgsjäger, or mountain troops, worn as a metal pin on the left side of the mountain cap, on the band of the service dress cap, and as a patch on the right sleeve.
  • The rank insignia of Swiss generals has Edelweiss signs instead of stars. A Korpskommandant for example (equivalent to a Lieutenant General in other countries) wears three Edelweiss signs on his collar instead of three stars.
  • This flower appears prominently in the comic book adventure Asterix in Switzerland where the protagonists attempt to procure an Edelweiss for its use in an antidote.



  • Chiej, Roberto. The Macdonald Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Sylvia Mulcahy, trans. London: MacDonald, 1984. ISBN 0-356-10541-5, ISBN 0356105423. Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
  • Huxley, Anthony, ed. The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. London: MacMillan Press, 1992. ISBN 0-333-47494-5. Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.


There is a song known as "Edelweiss".

External links

edelweiss in Bulgarian: Еделвайс
edelweiss in Czech: Protěž alpská
edelweiss in German: Edelweiß
edelweiss in Estonian: Alpi jänesekäpp
edelweiss in Spanish: Leontopodium alpinum
edelweiss in Esperanto: Edelvejso
edelweiss in French: Edelweiss
edelweiss in Hungarian: Havasi gyopár
edelweiss in Italian: Leontopodium
edelweiss in Lithuanian: Alpinė liūtpėdė
edelweiss in Dutch: Edelweiss
edelweiss in Japanese: ウスユキソウ
edelweiss in Norwegian: Edelweiss
edelweiss in Polish: Szarotka alpejska
edelweiss in Portuguese: Edelvais
edelweiss in Romanian: Floarea-reginei
edelweiss in Russian: Эдельвейс
edelweiss in Albanian: Edelweiss
edelweiss in Slovenian: Planika
edelweiss in Serbian: Рунолист
edelweiss in Finnish: Alppitähti
edelweiss in Swedish: Edelweiss
edelweiss in Ukrainian: Білотка альпійська
edelweiss in Venetian: Leontopodium alpinum
edelweiss in Chinese: 高山火絨草
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