Achillea millefolium | ‘Common Yarrow’, ‘Yarrow’ | Seeds
Achillea millefolium, is an herbaceous flowering perennial native to parts of Asia, Europe and North America. Most often known as the ‘Common Yarrow’ or ‘Yarrow’, the species has been known by many other (more colourful) names too, including ‘Arrowroot’, ‘Bad Man’s Plaything’, ‘Bloodwort’, ‘Carpenter’s Weed’, ‘Death Flower’, ‘Devil’s Nettle’, ‘Eerie’, ‘Field Hops’, ‘Gearwe’, ‘Gordaldo’, ‘Herbal Militaris’, ‘Hundred-leaved Grass’, ‘Knight’s Milefoil’, ‘Knyghten’, ‘Milfoil’, ‘Noble Yarrow’, ‘Nosebleed Plant’, ‘Old Man’s Mustard’, ‘Old Man’s Pepper’, ‘Plumajillo’, ‘Sanguinary’, ‘Seven Year’s Love’, ‘Snake’s Grass’, ‘Soldier’s Woundwort’, ‘Staunchweed’, ‘Thousand-leaf’, ‘Thousand-seal’, ‘Woundwort’, ‘Yarroway’ and ‘Yerw’.
An erect and spreading plant that grows to around a metre high, the leaves of this fast-growing species are quite evenly distributed along the length of its ribbed stem and are generally bigger toward its bottom and middle. The leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate, slightly hairy and can reach up to twenty centimetres in length. Sweetly-scented clusters of small, whitish-pink-yellow flowers – especially attractive to bees and butterflies – appear between late spring and early autumn. Several subspecies, varieties and cultivars of millefolium exist, including several which have won the (British) Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Located within the Asteraceae family, millefolium has an ancient and varied history of human use (as do several other Achillea). Besides its popularity as an ornamental, its parts and products are used as an insect repellent, to make ‘pick-up sticks’, for I Ching divination, as a butterfly-attracting companion plant, to combat soil erosion, as food for humans and animals and as a lucky charm.
Moreover, Achillea millefolium has long been employed medicinally by a wide range of cultures – at least as far back as the Ancient Greeks. Past and present examples of the plant’s varied uses include as an analgesic, aromatic and astringent, as a diaphoretic, stimulant, stringent and tonic, to aid sleep, to provide ‘second sight’, to treat burns and wounds and staunch bleeding and to treat colds, earaches, headaches and toothaches. It should also be mentioned here that this species is apparently poisonous (although not fatal?) to cats, dogs and horses and can sometimes induce severe allergic skin rashes.
Growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9 and at an altitude of around three and a half thousand metres, Achillea millefolium prefers coastal, grassland, open forest and roadside habitats, where the soil (either wet or dry) is mildly to strongly acidic and mildly disturbed. It’s simple to grow from seed: plant no deeper than five millimetres or so (the seeds need light to germinate) in partial to full sun and an average temperature of 18–24°C. Space the young plants roughly forty-five centimetres apart and keep the soil moist yet well-drained – although this species is fairly drought-hardy.
Making a great addition to any apothecary, British native, wild or other garden, why not grow some Achillea millefolium today?
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018-2019