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Alaska Wildflowers | White

Mountain avens

Dryas octopetala L.

Alt. names:
Eight-petaled avens

Genus: Dryas (mountain avens)
Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Order: Rosales

Duration: Perennial

Uses: Herbal tea from leaves

diagram of mountain avens
Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. [2]

Identification – Mountain Avens

Mountain avens are a mat-forming plant with small (3-16 mm in length), oblong or ovate leaves. The leaves are dark green in color with wavy indentions perpendicular to a single mid-vein, are slightly dentate (toothed), and slightly rolled under on the edges. There are usually many older dead, brown leaves in the mat.

Many single-stemmed flowers are typically found in the plant. Each flower has 8 white or cream-colored petals 9-14 mm across, the flower being 1.25-2 cm (0.5-0.75 in) across. It has many densely packed, yellow stamens. Mountain avens display heliotropism, tracking the sun throughout the day to maximize the amount of solar radiation hitting the flower [1].

The Dryas octopetala is used in climatology and paleoecology because its pollen is frequently found in ice cores dating between 11,700-17,000 years ago. The pollen helps scientists learn more about ecology and climate during cooling and warming periods at the end of the last ice age and glacial retreat.

Distribution and Habitat

Mountain avens have a circumpolar distribution across the entire Arctic including Europe and Asia. In the United States and Canada, their range descends down into British Columbia, Alberta, the Pacific Northwest states, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. They live in rocky areas, alpine ridges, tundra, and alpine meadows in full sun.


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 64
Dryas octopetala  L., ITIS Database
Dryas octopetala L. eightpetal mountain-avens, USDA Database
Plant of the Week: Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala), USDA – U.S. Forest Service
Dryas octopetala Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 501. 1753., Flora of North America www.eFloras.org
Diagram, Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 273. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society. Scanned by Omnitek Inc.

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