What type of habitat does Edelweiss inhabit?

The beauty of the European mountain ranges such as the Alps, Pyrenees Mountains, and the Italian Apennines is breathtaking. The towering mountains and snowy peaks create an impressive and powerful scene. Scattered upon the high slopes, however, there lies another beauty: the Edelweiss plant, or Leontipodium alpinum. This unique environment of high altitude and rugged terrain creates a challenge for most plants to survive, but Edelweiss finds a way to thrive in this distinctive habitat.

The Alps are a distinct region with unique characteristics. Nestled in central Europe, the Alps are the main region where Edelweiss thrives. The mountain range is known for its variation in temperature and precipitation levels. The Alps can receive, at times, up to five centimeters of snow per hour during some of the more intense blizzards (Schneeblei et. al). Added to the fact that the snow may fall from October to May, this creates a very unique environment for any organism to adapt to (Schneeblei et. al).

The first thing that distinguishes the habitat of Leontopodium alpinum from that of most plants is the high altitude at which it grows. Edelweiss lives at an elevation between 1800 to 3400 meters above sea level (Daniela et al. 2012). This high-altitude requirement makes the mountain ranges of Europe a perfect place for this plant to reside. The fact that the plant can survive at such a high altitude made it very intriguing to those who live near it. In many countries where Edelweiss resides, the plant is a cultural symbol and an important part of their heritage. Used in medicines, Edelweiss has been important to many European cultures for centuries as an anti-inflammatory or an anti-microbial treatment (Daniela et al. 2012). Aside from being used in medicines, the Edelweiss plant is the national plant of the country of Switzerland, and is even used on some forms of European currency (Dweck 2004).The Swiss Alps from above

The high-altitude can cause problems for most plants. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels are increased with higher elevation, because of a thinner atmosphere. Because of this, more UV rays reach the earth without being filtered out by the atmosphere. With every 1000 meters, UV radiation increases 12-16% (Kertesz et al 2005). High UV levels can be dangerous to all organisms, but this particular plant has means of using the radiation for its own benefit (See Adaptation).

Other unique factors of Edelweiss’s habitat, due to the elevation, are low atmospheric pressure, extremes in temperature and humidity, and rocky terrain (Dweck 2004). Low atmospheric pressure makes it harder for plants to absorb CO2 (Kertesz et al. 2005). Temperatures in the European Alps at this altitude can vary from season to season with extremes as low as -20 degrees Celsius in the winter, and up to 32 degrees Celsius in the summer (Dweck 2004). The rugged and rocky terrain of European mountain ranges produces even more challenges for plant life: shallow soil, poor nutrient levels, and large amounts of runoff from melting snow.

Permission from Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy          
The Alps and other mountain ranges of Europe have a unique diversity of organisms that share the slopes with Leontopodium alpinum. Other wild flowers such as the alpine carnation, alpine rose, and gentian are all found in this habitat, as well as stags, reindeer, rabbit, and fox, among other animals. These organisms, like Edelweiss, have adapted to survive the high altitude and the difficulties that come with it.


The habitat that Leontopodium Alpinum lives in creates a very unique living situation. With the high altitude comes low atmospheric pressure, higher ultraviolet radiation, and extremes in temperature and humidity. However, Edelweiss has adapted to not only survive, but even thrive with these challenges in place.

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Please see the References page to learn more about where we did our research on Edelweiss

This page was written by Peter Tenpas