The plant genus Anaphalis, which is more commonly known as Pearly Everlasting, includes around 110 herb species that are native to Central Asia, South Asia and North America; the plants can also be found in Europe as an introduced species. These are medicinal plants, but they also find decorative use in floral arrangements when the flowers are dried and preserved. The dried flowers tend to last for a long time.
The plant is usually found in elevated, mountainous regions in open fields or woody areas. It does well in both full sun and partial shade conditions, and can get along with only a moderate water supply. It requires a dry sandy type of soil for its growth. The flowering season of Anaphalis is from June to October.
Anaphalis margaritacea is the North American variety, and this herb can grow up to three feet (0.9144 m) tall. Its narrow leaves are alternately arranged on the dry, brittle stem, and appear soft and woolly to the touch; the undersides of the grayish-green leaves are covered with tiny hairs. The flowers are small and whitish or yellowish in color. Each flower appears to have numerous overlapping petals that make it look like a tiny water lily. These petals are really bracts and the actual flower are in the center.
Another variety, Anaphalis javanica, also known as the Javanese Edelweiss, originates on the island of Java in Indonesia. German naturalist Georg Carl Reinwardt was the first European to describe these glowing white flowers, after encountering them on the slopes of the Gunung Gede mountain in 1819. The plant, a member of the aster family, was studied in more scientific detail later by the German botanist Carl Heinrich Schutz. The Javanese Edelweiss, which the Indonesians call bunga abadi or eternal flower, is very popular as a dried decoration and is sold as a tourist souvenir. This popularity has depleted the plant in the mountainous regions, and it has been declared an endangered and protected species.
The Anaphalis plant has been utilized by Native Americans and by other folk medicine practitioners to treat coughs, headaches and various other ailments. The plant has been used as a salve to treat burns. Apart from its medicinal and ornamental benefits, the plant is favored as a food source by painted lady butterflies.