Edelweiss, or Leontopodium nivale, is the symbol of the Alps and is perfectly adapted to life in the alpine zone. The tiny hairs on the plant collect thousands of air bubbles which protect the flower from burning in the sun, drying out, or freezing in the harsh alpine environment. Finding these white, furry flowers while hiking in the Alps is always a very exciting experience!
Why you won’t find Edelweiss on the Tour du Mont Blanc
I’ve never seen edelweiss in the Mont Blanc area; not on the French, Italian or Swiss side of the massif. Which is a curious fact. Especially if you know that I spend most of my days exploring these mountains, regularly falling to my knees to admire the incredibly rich flora in this region. So, if there would be any edelweiss around I would have definitely seen them.
So, what’s going on? Did all the edelweiss get picked to extinction in this area? No, edelweiss simply doesn’t grow on Mont Blanc. The Mont Blanc massif consist of siliceous rock, like granite, which is acidic and edelweiss doesn’t like acidic soils.
This unfortunately means, you won’t find any of these beautiful little flowers while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. Although, you might see them on your rest day during a tour in the beautiful alpine botanical gardens in Courmayeur, Italy.
Where to find edelweiss?
If you leave the acidic soils of Mont Blanc behind you, and wander towards the Matterhorn, the soil changes and these furry flowers become very common near Zermatt. They prefer limestone soil and thrive in this area. The flowers bloom between July and September. Thus, if you’re hiking the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route in this period and you’re crossing rocky limestone places (at about 1.800 to 3.000 metres altitude) keep your eyes peeled. You might be lucky enough to spot this symbol of the alps in full bloom.