No matter where you go in K-Country – from dry valleys and grasslands, into the forests and up into the highest alpine – you’ll readily find Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. Yarrow is found through western North America all the way from the Arctic Ocean to New Mexico. Some varieties are found in Eurasia and it has been introduced to Austrailia and New Zealand.
Yarrow is well studied and VERY complex. There are at least 6 recognized Achillea sub-species, though they tend to get lumped and all called Yarrow because they are difficult to tell apart. This means you may see variations in the Yarrow plants you find depending on habitat or altitude. Many high alpine species, for instance, are quite small and ground hugging, with flower stems only a few inches tall. Lower elevation ones – including ones you can grow at home – can be taller (up to 3′), frillier, and lighter or darker in colour.
“Frilly” is the best way to describe the leaves. They look delicate almost fern-like. “Millefolium” is French for “thousands of leaves”. They alternate their way up the plant’s stem as seen in the photo to the right. Yarrow’s flowers form clusters and are usually white, though pink ones can be found as well. The plant flowers from May into September.
This literally is a plant of a thousand uses.
- Achillea comes from the Greek hero Achilles. The plant is a styptic, and stops bleeding and promotes clotting. In the epic poem, Illiad, Achilles is taught to use Yarrow to stop bleeding on the battlefield;
- You can make tea with it. Use this to treat burns, sores, sore eyes and ears, and even treat mosquito bites;
- Yarrow has been used to treat cold, fevers, diarrhea and diabetes, and promote sleep;
- Native North Americans used it to treat toothaches;
- Almost the whole plant is edible, and leaves can be added to salads;
- Yarrow is used to flavour liquors, bitters and even beer;
- It attracts wasps, bees, ladybugs, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and other beneficial insects.
But do note: despite its good properties, Yarrow is toxic to horses, dogs and cats.
Meet more of the pretty flowers of K-Country here!