Mountain Avens

Common name:
Mountain Avens
Dryas octopetala
Flowering period:
Limestone grasslands and heaths
Conservation Status:
Common in the Burren, rare elsewhere.

Short description:

Fabulous white flowers a central golden coronet of stamens, usually eight petalled as its name suggest.

The  tiny dark green oak shaped leaves have  silvery undersides and a waxy texture, they persist throughout the winter months.


Noteworthy characteristics

Dryas octopetala is similar to the Spring Gentian in its distribution both are considered as Arctic-Alpine species

One of the Burren specialities, the beautiful white flowers of  Mountain Avens  form dense mats and can be found growing in great profusion throughout the Burren from  hilltops to  sea level from early April, often peaking in May with the occasional plants found throughout the Autumn months


Uses and other snipets

The word Dryas comes from the Greek word for a wood nymph or dryad, to whom the oak was sacred (Stearn, 1992)

There are no noted uses for this plant in Ireland

The Burren is a stronghold for Mountain Avens in Ireland occurring abundantly in places, they are surprisingly absent from the Aran Islands

Sometimes plants occur with double the amount of petals – here is one that I photographed in the Burren some years ago, these  can be fun to discover.


Personal note

I love the attractive twists of feathery seed heads that Dryas forms, they gradually unravel to form ‘clocks’ not unlike those of dandelions, and are similarly dispersed by the wind.

When I finished my degree in Botany in UCG , I began a PH.D research thesis on Dryas octepetala, collecting seeds from the Burren and successfully growing them on in the then small greenhouse on the UCG grounds. I later switched to an M.Sc. research study on a different aspect of the Burren-a  land use and vegetation study of the East Burren area, completed in 1990.

Mountain Avens have  been cultivated for years in the rare plant section of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.



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