One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: of or characteristic of mountains, especially the Alps. In later use: (specifically) designating a zone of vegetation growing below the tree line in a mountainous habitat; of or characteristic of this zone.
Late 18th century; earliest use found in John Abercrombie (1726–1806), horticulturist and writer. From post-classical Latin alpestris mountainous + -ine.
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