Legends and characteristics of the plants
Mountain plants have always been associated with stories and legends, and are often the protagonists of stories that are to some extent made up, which tell of daily life and include the use of Alpine plant species. Since ancient times, man has been using these plants for food, as a cure for ailments and as perfume, dedicating stories and poetry to them along the way.
The legend of the Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum)
There is a legend that tells of a young man who went into the mountains to gather herbs and hunt marmots and who did not return home. His wife grew more and more concerned as the days passed and went out to look for her husband. She found his lifeless body between two slabs of ice and, unable to reach him, stayed there grieving for her dead husband on a ledge overhanging the rock below for the whole day. When night came, the young woman did not move and continued to cry through the night, so much so that the next morning, her hair and eyelashes were covered in frost, like silvery down. She prayed to God, asking to be allowed to remain next to her beloved forever and watch over him from heaven, as she could not get close to him. Her wish was granted and she was transformed into the beautiful flower, Edelweiss, the symbol of the Alps. Tradition has it that the Edelweiss is a rare flower that grows in remote rocky mountain areas, making it a particular favourite of tourists. In reality, it grows mainly on Alpine slopes, above the forest line, and is quite common. The species is at risk of extinction due to indiscriminate picking.
The Gentian family
Many species belonging to the Gentian family can be found in the Alpine meadows and pastures. These extraordinarily beautiful flowering plants come in a variety of colours and are known and used mostly for their digestive properties. Gentiana lutea, commonly known as yellow Gentian, is undoubtedly one of the most effective digestive and fever-reducing plants. The bitter active ingredients of Gentian are useful for stimulating and balancing the secretion of gastric and bile juices which, when lacking, can cause illness, drowsiness, headaches and intestinal fermentation. It helps the body assimilate food and aids in the recovery of convalescent, weak and anaemic patients. The concentrated tisane or the diluted tincture are useful for normalising oily skin. Gentiana acaulis has similar properties, although in a less potent form. In the liqueurs sector, it is used in the production of spirits, tonics and digestives, Fernet, bitters and aperitifs. The electric blue flowers brighten up the meadows at the start of summer. In addition to the two plants already mentioned, there are also many other, less common, species of Gentian, such as Gentiana puntata and Gentiana purpurea. Unfortunately, although Gentians are plants which should be treated respectfully and admired without the selfish need to take them, they are being picked indiscriminately.