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Leontopodium alpinum

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA MAGNOLIOPSIDA ASTERALES COMPOSITAE

Scientific Name: Leontopodium alpinum
Species Authority: Colm. ex Cass.
Common Name(s):
English Edelweiss
Taxonomic Notes: In the Euro+Med Plantbase (Greuter 2006-2009), this species is treated as a synonym of Leontopodium nivale ssp. alpinum (Cass.) Greuter. However, Leontopodium alpinum is an accepted species in The Plant List (2012) and in GRIN Taxonomy (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2012).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-04-03
Assessor(s): Khela, S.
Reviewer(s): Leaman, D.J., Miller, R.M. & Oldfield, S.
Contributor(s): Boršić, I, Shuka, L. & Turonova, D.
Justification:
Global and European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
EU 27 regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is an important and widely known species which is now established in cultivation. Edelweiss flowers are highly prized and were collected from the wild in the past, but collection is now regulated or banned in many European countries. This plant is threatened in several European countries and populations declined due to collection in the past; however, it has a large distribution and without information on the extent of population declines, it does not qualify for a threatened category in Europe or the EU 27. It is therefore listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Edelweiss is native to the mountains of Europe. Its distribution ranges from the Pyrenees to the Alps and eastwards over the peninsula of the Balkans to the central Balkans in Bulgaria, where it is found between 1,500-3,400 m asl. It is widely cultivated. It is a casual neophyte in the Czech Republic (Danihelka et al. 2012). The southern limit of its distribution is in Albania, disjunct from its occurrence in the Alps (L. Shuka pers. comm. 2013). The genus is restricted to Eurasia (Erhardt 1993).
Countries:
Native:
Albania; Austria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Italy (Italy (mainland)); Montenegro; Poland; Romania; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Switzerland; Ukraine (Ukraine (main part))
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Edelweiss populations have declined as a result of past collection in the wild. This species is rare in many countries.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: A herbaceous perennial, a symbol of the Alps and national flower of Switzerland, Edelweiss is one of the world's most famous wild flowers. It colonizes meadows in alpine and highland steppe areas, as high as 3,400 metres elevation. It flowers from the end of July to mid-August, during optimal weather conditions (Erhardt 1993). The species is not confined to the highest region of the Alps but also occurs in the alpine zone, and is typical of plant communities on exposed ridges (Hörandl et al. 2011).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The flower is highly prized by tourists and botanists, which has claimed the lives of many attempting to collect it in the high peaks of the Alps (Erhardt 1993). Edelweiss has been cultivated successfully for flower and herb production in South Finland (Lipman 2009) and attempts at cultivation in Switzerland have been successful (the average fresh inflorescence yield was 1.3 kg/m² in the second year of cultivation). Edelweiss is a protected species in Switzerland, but the plant is being selectively bred in order to produce a commercial crop. The cultivar grows vigorously and abundantly and is now a source of raw material for cosmetic and food extraction. The flower has soothing properties and the powder, infusion or tincture have been used to treat rheumatic pain and in traditional use for diarrhoea and dysentery and as an astringent and tonic for coughs and most commonly as an antioxidant as the extracts contain tannins and flavonoids. In Austria, Edelweiss is also a brand of beer named after the flower (Dweck 2004, Alpaflor 2009). The root extract is antimicrobial and is used for the treatment of abdominal disorders (Dobner et al. 2003).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the past, Edelweiss populations have declined as a result of collection in the wild. As with a number of alpine plants, climate change may be a long-term threat, capable of causing population declines in Europe's mountain habitats as it gradually transforms cold mountain habitats and their plant communities (Gottfried et al. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Edelweiss is listed as Endangered in Bulgaria (Petrova and Vladimirov 2009), where it is rare and has been propagated by seed for ex situ conservation (Kozuharova 2009). It is Endangered in Germany (Bundesamt für Naturschutz 2012) and is listed as a species under special protection in Appendix 1 of the Regulation for the Protection of Animal and Plant Species that Occur in Nature. It is listed as Least Concern in Switzerland, although it is a protected species and is listed as threatened in some regions (Moser et al. 2002). This species has been protected since 1896 in what is now Slovenian territory (Skoberne 2004). It is protected in Montenegro under Official Gazette SRCG, No. 36/82 (Lipman 2009). It is Vulnerable and protected in Slovakia (Institute of Botany SAS 2011). It is rare in Romania (Oprea et al. 2007), but has been propagated there using in vitro techniques (Zapratan 1996). It is Critically Endangered in the Ukrainian Carpathians (Kricsfalusy and Budnikov 2007). According to the Flora Croatica Database in Croatia two subspecies occur: Leontopodium alpinum Cass. ssp. alpinum and Leontopodium alpinum Cass. ssp. krasense Derganc. The latter is listed as Vulnerable in the Red Book of Vascular Flora of Croatia (Nikolić and Topić 2005). In Croatia it is under strict legal protection and listed in the Ordinance on Proclamation of Wild Taxa as Protected and Strictly Protected (Official Gazette 99/09; I. Borsic pers. comm. 2013). It is found in five Biogenetic reserves and fifty Natura 2000 sites in Italy and one in Romania (European Environment Agency 2010).

Citation: Khela, S. 2013. Leontopodium alpinum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 25 July 2014.
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