Dryas

Dryas. Is. Really. Stinkin'. Cool... Maybe my favorite plant. Reminds me of Belize, where you can gaze upward and find tiny explosions of green foliage clinging to crooks made by intersecting bridge beams thirty feet above your head, crooks that would otherwise exist forever unremarkable and unnoticed.

Here, in the Wrangell's, this unassuming plant is THE reason ANYthing grows. This incredible feature of the unbelievably intricate system that exists here will grow in pure rock. It doesn't need soil because it gets all the nutrients it needs from the air and the water, but it becomes soil for everything else that comes after. It grows like a carpet, and spreads like wildfire by shooting up seed pods, reminiscent of a dandelion, to be whisked along to the next clump of bare rock one valley over. Dryas is constantly dying, decomposing, and turning itself into dirt (which can be easily observed by lifting its leaves enough to see underneath the green). Allowed to continue, this process enables a host of flowers, brush, and eventually trees to also grow and die in the soil that is produced over time... So basically, given a few hundred years, this "simple" feature of the North, has been given the incredible ability to turn a gravel pile into a spruce forest :). Like I said, really stinkin' cool, eh!?

Here's the blanket of leaves, stalks with the puffball of seeds atop. What you can't see is the nutrient-rich decay just under the leafy layer on the ground.

First comes a single dryas plant, next a field of it, and then....

Dryas UNpaved the way for this boreal forest!