Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Edelweiss and alpine gentians

A visit to the highest peak in the Schwarzwald yesterday brought wonderful views and a great hike, which I posted about in Places of the Spirit, my new addition to writing blog posts.

But a plant-related reflection belongs here:  about edelweiss and alpine gentians.  We didn't see either, but on the peak, one of the interpretive signs mentioned both. They're certainly iconic alpine plants.


The text describes how Edelweiss was once much more common in its range (which is limited to a fairly limited elevation and soil type, according to this Wikipedia account) and now exists in protected areas.  (Overcollection had an impact).  I'm thinking I even have a framed pressed flower montage from Switzerland that includes an edelweiss flower.  (It was a birthday present from my mom when I was a teenager).

Gentians comprise a species-rich genus, with a cosmopolitan distribution. My gardening companion studied three alpine gentians in the White Mountains of California in graduate school;  4 summer seasons were spent comparing their pollination biology and life history strategies (at ~ 11,000 ft).  It was nice to go visit in summer;  not so fun in the beginning of the season, for fieldwork, when there was still snow on the ground. So gentians have been part of our botanical lives for a long time.  

It would have been fun to see one on the Feldburg, but probably the short-stemmed, dwarf species described in this image flowered in late spring or early summer.


Its common name is first described here as yellow gentian (?), but then the description mentions a much better one: stemless gentian (Stengelloser Enzian).  Hmm.  There is a yellow gentian native to the alps, but its flowers are yellow, as you'd think.

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