What’s small and white as well as clean and bright?
The answer, as any fan of the Family von Trapp will know, is an Edelweiss. Small, it maybe, when you manage to grow a mighty 107,126 Edelweiss blooms side-by-side on a Tirolean mountainside, you earn your place in the Guinness World Records.
But three years ago, owners Markus and Tanja Senn planted a packet of seed bang in the middle of the piste outside their front door…and the idea of immortality kind of grew from there.
Before you could shout “Julie Andrews” they had bred 20,000 flowers in the first year, and the record chase was on. On August 5 2017, some 40 volunteers (no doubt, including a couple of lonely goatherds) counted the 107,26 total under the watchful eye of a Guinness World Records scrutineer.
One slight problem: there’s never been an Edelweiss category in the famous datebase, founded in 1955 by twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter. But no worries, so great was the number of blooms, Tanja discovered she had created The Largest Flower Arrangement in the World. Her tally smashed the previous record of 53,643 held by Ankara in Turkey.
“This is very special for us,” said Tanja after receiving the award. “One does not become the owner of a world record every day. We have put so much energy and love into our Edelweiss.”
So what happens to this splendid floral display when the summer tourists pack away their rucksacks and alpenstocks and head for home?
“The blooms die off and are buried in the first snowfall. In the springtime we have to cut off all the dead foliage and then the buds are reborn,” she added.
If you thought Edelweiss were rare, you’d be right – these ones are cultivated. In the wild, they grow above 1500m on rocky ledges that are often extremely dangerous to reach. Young men traditionally picked them and presented them to their partners as a token of their love and proof of their daring.
What you probably didn’t know is that their scent is far from fragrant. Bees don’t buzz much at altitude and so Edelweiss try to attract flies for pollination. Nature is eternally adaptive and the flowers give off an unappetising pong…of human sweat.