“Edelweiss is the color of bad cigar ashes,” Mark Twain wrote, “and appears to be made of cheap quality of gray plush.” Not the most flattering description of Switzerland’s national flower. People have even died trying to pick this unique alpine member of the daisy family. But it could be argued that people love the flower not for its looks but its symbolism.
The name “Edelweiss” means “noble and white.” The flower is also known as the snow flower. Edelweiss was born out of a tragic lover’s tear, according to legend. The bloom symbolizes love, sacrifice, care, and devotion. Its exaggerated scarcity makes the love token appear to be an act of daring.
Edelweiss is a deceptively complex bloom. The fuzzy white petals that make up the star shape are actually leaves surrounding the center made up of 2-10 tiny clustered flowers. It prefers high altitudes of 6500 – 1,000 feet and is found in Asia and Europe. It’s hardy, growing on rocky, limestone slopes. Thus, Edelweiss has also been seen to represent adventure and sacrifice.
Edelweiss Meaning: Noble And White
The name Edelweiss is German and translates to “noble and white.” The white is in reference to the color of the faux petals. The noble comes from the “quest” to fetch it. That it requires a noble and devoted person to climb to such heights to fetch the flower for his lover.
There have been suggestions that obtaining Edelweiss was not quite as hard to obtain as some men made out. But then again, people have fallen when trying to pick one from a dodgy outcrop.
However, it is illegal to pick Edelweiss in the wild in most areas these days. The Edelweiss used in cosmetics, anti-wrinkle treatments, and medicines is grown commercially and not harvested from protected areas.
Edelweiss Flower’s Controversial Associations
While the meaning of Edelweiss refers to the color of the flower and not white supremacism, it does have an awkward WW2 history. It was worn as a pin by the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS Gebirgsjäger, the Nazi Party’s SS mountain rangers.
But the Edelweiss song in The Sound of Music is not an Austrian national tune. The song was written specifically for the movie and is mainly known to American viewers. Nonetheless, the fictional storyline did add to its overall negative connotation.
However, Switzerland has done a massive PR job, spending real money in 1990 on a rebranding exercise for their national flower. They value Edelweiss as a “concept of reimaging traditions and embracing the county’s roots and heritage.”
What Edelweiss Symbolizes
Edelweiss traditionally symbolizes:
While the gift of Edelweiss is often associated with romantic love, it is more than that. People give it to their families, including children, as a token of their commitment and love for them.
The Meaning Of An Edelweiss Flower Tattoo
The Edelweiss flower tattoo isn’t as common as cherry blossoms or roses. However, it’s not an obscure choice. People in Switzerland sometimes have their national flower tattooed out of pride for their country or love for Alpine meadows.
But Edelweiss is also a symbol of the mountaineering community. Thus, mountain and rock climbers may get a tattoo of the flower as a nod to their passion and daring. People also get an Edelweiss tattoo out of remembrance of a mountaineer.
Lastly, Edelweiss flower tattoos also symbolize the wearer’s love and devotion to the people in their lives, be it, family or cherished friends. For example, a parent might tattoo one for each child. It is also a perfect mother and daughter tattoo choice.
Why Edelweiss Is A Mountaineering Symbol
Edelweiss t loves high altitude, just like mountain climbers. Thus, the flower is a common symbol in the mountain, Alpine, and rock-climbing communities. So much so there is even a company that makes climbing ropes named Edelweiss. Their “kernmantle” rope was innovative and made climbing safer.
Other Edelweiss Meanings And Symbolism
Edelweiss is an herb classified as a short-lived perennial, which means as the plant ages, it produces fewer flowers. Its total lifespan is 3-10 years, but the actual flowers are only seen from July to September.
The “short-lived” persona of Edelweiss and its high altitude has led to many seeing the flower as its own Carpe Diem battle cry. The idea is that life is short, so bloom (live) while you can and have adventures.
The Legend of Edelweiss
There is a Bavarian origin story of Edelweiss. It tells of a gorgeous queen with a frozen heart living high up in the mountains (no, this is not Sleeping Beauty or Snow White). With her unearthly singing voice, she lured shepherds to her frozen lair, where she would enslave them. In time she’d grow bored of these men and toss them to their deaths.
But she eventually did fall for a shepherd. But her enslaved were filled with jealousy and tossed him to his death. The tragedy of the loss thawed the queen’s heart to the point where she could shed a single tear.
The tear bloomed into what we now know as Edelweiss.
Edelweiss In Medicine And Cosmetics
Edelweiss has long been used as a herbal remedy and is still used today for cosmetics, an essential oil, and remedies. It has historically been used for:
- Cough remedy
It has been shown to have:
- Fatty acids
It has also been shown to have various properties such as:
- Chemo-protective effects
These days it is often used in moisturizers, anti-aging treatments, and sunscreen. Edelweiss essential oil is also used to fight aging and treat “brown spots” that form on the skin.
Mark Twain didn’t think Edelweiss looked like much, but for many, its looks are not the point. Edelweiss is a unique and hardy flower that has become a symbol of how to seize life and of love and devotion. It is the romanticized elusiveness and the adventure to obtain it that has made the flower such a sought-out bloom. But don’t go picking it; it’s now protected.