Dryas is a small genus of 6 species of flowering plants in the family Rosaceae, with the common name Mountain Avens.
The species are native to the alpine and arctic areas of Europe, North America and Asia. However, these ground-hugging perennials will grow almost anywhere and can be found as far north as there is land! This charming little plant has saucer-shaped flowers with eight to ten petals on naked stalks. Dryas is ideal for rock gardens or for planting in cracks between paving or walls.
The genus was named after the Dryades, the wood nymphs of Greek mythology.
In ancient Greek, the word “drys” meant a large tree, in particular the “oak tree”. And indeed, the form of Dryas leaves is like a smaller version of oak leaves.
Dryas represents longevity, purity and innocence.
Interesting facts about Dryas:
Dryas species are similar to Geum, Potentilla and Fragaria. They even share the common name “Avens” with the species in the genera Geum.
Unlike most genera in the Rosaceae family, Dryas plants have eight to ten petals.
Holtasoley (Dryas octopetala)
Dryas octopetala, also known as Holtasoley, is the national flower of Iceland and can be found all over the country. It was voted the national flower of Iceland in October 2004.
It is probably the most popular species and most appropriate for cultivation.
Dryas octopetala has leaves similar to oak leaves and each flower typically has 8 petals, hence the name “octopetala”.
The plant was used as a herb for its medicinal properties. It was mainly used to treat gingivitis and other disorders of the mouth and throat.
The dried leaves were used as a substitute for tobacco and tea.
The Fossils of Dryas
Fossils of Dryas plants are important to paleontologists. The two cold phases within the melting phase in the Ice Age have been named the Younger and Older Dryas periods, in honor of this plant.
These flowers are usually white or cream, with yellow centre.
Dryas is a small plant, growing only 20 cm (8 inches) in height.
The plant can grow in many different soil types and pH levels, but requires good drainage.