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La Stella Alpina

La Stella Alpina

Floating high above sea level, in the clear air of the Italian Alps, we find the elusive “alpine star,” la stella alpina. This sweet wildflower grows out of rocky crevices in the bright but cold mountain air for only a few months each year.

Scientifically known as Leontopodium alpinum, or “alpine lion’s paw,” la stella alpina is part of the Asteraceae family, which counts the daisy and the sunflower among its members. The short-lived flower is in bloom from July to September. When blossoming, the snow-white flowers stand out: fuzzy spiked petals meet dramatically around a cluster of golden florets.

In the northern alpine regions, Italians are raised with a deep appreciation for this rare flower. La stella alpina represents purity and love; in fact, it once was customary for the bride to carry a bouquet of the flowers down the aisle. Today, a visit to the Alps is only completed by a sighting of the sought-after mountain beauty, which is now legally protected against being picked.

This love for la stella alpina extends beyond Italy. Called étoile d’argent for “silver star” in French and edelweiss for “noble white” in German (yes, the inspiration behind the Rodger and Hammerstein song in The Sound of Music), the flower is cherished across the Alps.

italian alps

Click here to learn about the cuisine of the Italian Alps!