There are a few plants in K-Country that we just adore. Way up the list are the Dryas family, or more commonly Avens. There are two very common members, both of which bloom in June. Growing the generally in lower, less alpine environments well below treeline are Yellow Mountain Avens, Dryas drummondii, a member of the Rose family.
Carpets in the wilderness
Most Dryas plants form ground hugging mats. Yellow Mountain Avens do so over rocky places like dry stream beds, glacial planes and even roadsides in K-Country. Their small, tough, sculpted green leaves form pretty carpets over their rocky homes. In June, little wilting yellow flowers come up that are a big hit with bees. These flowers eventually become twisted, jet engine shapes, that turn into dandelion-like seed pods that blow away in the breeze. Both shapes are seen in the photo at right. In the fall, the plant’s leaves turn stunning yellows and reds.
Having tried (unsuccessfully) to collect these seeds and grow the plants in our gardens, we know the seeds need to dry out and freeze before they can germinate. Seeds from last year’s flowers start to germinate into next year’s seedlings around July. We also know first hand it doesn’t like to be transplanted.
All Avens are “pioneer” plants. They are among the first plants to appear where things can grow. They are capable of “fixing nitrogen”, taking it out of the air and excreting it as ammonia into the soil. This enabling other plants to grow as well. Dryas do this by having a special bacteria called Frankia living in their roots — a cool symbiotic relationship.
There is some evidence that Indigenous people used Yellow Mountain Avens as medicine for heart, kidney and bladder problems.
See some of the other beautiful flowers in K-Country here!