More than 846 different species have been identified in the Alps and many species and ecological communities can only be found in the alpine area.The biodiversity of the Alps is in relatively good preserved with the majority of the area set as national park.
In the Alps plants can be found in all zones. However, trees do not occur in the alpine zone above the treeline where snow cover stays for more than four months as it is too cold for them to grow. Only shrubs and herbs occur in this zone, developing flowers over summer.
Trees in the Alps include Alpine Ash in the mountain zone and Snow Gum in the subalpine zone. The Alpine Ash is a tall treewhile the Snow Gum is shorter due to the colder temperatures in the subalpine zone.
Plants that grow in the alpine zone include small mat-forming shrubs which produce succulent fruits such as small heaths. Sphagnum Moss occurs in alpine bogs and soaks up water from rain or snow melt like a sponge releasing it slowly in dry periods.
Examples of plants in the Alps are Cushion Caraway, Small Star Plantain, Anemone Buttercup, Bogong Daisybush and Silky Daisy Bush, edelweiss etc.
Edelweiss prefers rocky limestone places at about 1,800–3,000 metres (5,900–9,800 ft) altitude. It is non-toxic, and has been used traditionally in folk medicine as a remedy against abdominal and respiratory diseases.This short-lived flower found in remote mountain areas, the plant has been used as a symbol for alpinism, for strong beauty and purity.
According to folk tradition, giving this flower to a loved one is a promise of dedication.In the 19th century, the edelweiss became a symbol of the rugged purity of the Alpine region and of its native inhabitants.
National Parks in Italian Alps