Achillea millefolium Linnaeus
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
Achillea millefolium is a
perennial forb that is
both a native
species of North America
and an introduced species.
It is one of the 100 or so species of Achillea (Yarrow) that
are herbaceous perennials, most with fragrant
lacy foliage and small daisy-like flowerheads borne in rounded corymbs.
It is a member of the
Some authorities recognize one or more native American species and
varieties of Yarrow
of which some if not many can usually be distinguished from one another
only by microscopic techniques.
The Achillea genus is in fact a complex of variable
status is still uncertain.
Some varieties of Achillea millefolium are native to Europe and
western Asia, and have effectively
throughout temperate North America and in temperate regions worldwide.
These pages will then stay at the species level and forget,
for the time being, about the subspecies
In Québec, a tentative taxomony
for the species could be:
- Achillea millefolium subsp. borealis
- Achillea millefolium subsp. lanulosa
- Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium
- Achillea millefolium subsp. nigrescens
- Achillea millefolium subsp. pannonica
The genus name is said to be named for the Greek hero Achilles,
about 1200 B.C.,
who supposedly used plants of the genus Achillea
to staunch the wounds of his soldiers and heal their wounds
at the siege of Troy, or,
reputedly used it to treat his own wounds during the Trojan War;
but, alas, Achillea millefolium
couldn't save Achilles himself when he was shot with an arrow
through his heel.
A less romantic interpretation of the genus name is
that is commemorates a Greek doctor named Achilles
who recorded the medicinal uses of the plant.
In Latin, mille means thousand, and
folia means leave, so that
millefolium means with a thousand leaves,
and refers to its feathery foliage.
Achillea millefolium has many
vernacular names and folk names:
Yarrow, Bad Man's Plaything, Bloodwort, Carpenter's Weed, Common Yarrow,
Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Herbe Militaris, Knight's Milfoil, Milfoil,
Millefoil, Noble yarrow, Nosebleed, Old Man's Pepper, Sanguinary,
Soldier's woundwort, Staunchgrass, Staunchweed, Thousand Weed, Thousand-leaf,
Yarroway and Angel flower, to name most of them (or so I think)!
(In French the commonest common name is Achillée millefeuilles; other
names are Herbe à dinde, Herbe à dindons (Turkey's Herb)
The commonest common name, Yarrow
come from the Middle-English yarwe, that come form the Old-English
gerawe, that is cognate with the german Garbe that means
sheaf, since the leaves of Achillea millefolium look like a
bundle of very small leaves.
The folk name Nosebleed confirms the plant
traditional use as an emergency styptic.
Achillea millefolium is still not totally resolved, the list of
that grow in Québec and their synonyms below
should only be taken as an indication, not as definitive or complete.
- Achillea millefolium L. var. occidentalis DC.
(found in most of USA and Canada)
- Achillea aspleniifolia auct. non Vent.
- Achillea eradiata Piper
- Achillea gracilis Raf.
- Achillea laxiflora Pollard & Cockerell
- Achillea lanulosa Nutt.
- Achillea lanulosa Nutt. var. arachnoidea Lunell
- Achillea lanulosa Nutt. var. eradiata
(Piper) M.E. Peck
- Achillea lanulosa Nutt. ssp. typica Keck
- Achillea millefolium L. var. aspleniifolia
- Achillea millefolium L. var. gracilis Raf. ex DC.
- Achillea millefolium L. ssp. lanulosa (Nutt.) Piper
- Achillea millefolium L. var. lanulosa (Nutt.) Piper
- Achillea millefolium L. ssp. occidentalis (DC.) Hyl.
- Achillea millefolium L. ssp. pallidotegula Boivin
- Achillea millefolium L. var. rosea (Desf.) Torr.
- Achillea millefolium L. var. russeolata Boivin
- Achillea occidentalis (DC.) Raf. ex Rydb.
- Achillea rosea Desf.
- Achillea tomentosa Pursh, non L.
- Achillea millefolium L. var. nigrescens E. Mey.
(found in Alaska, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, and
- Achillea nigrescens (E. Mey.) Rydb.
- Achillea millefolium L. var. millefolium E. Mey.
(found in the north-eastern states and the western states of the USA
and in eastern and western Canada)
- Achillea millefolium L. subsp. millefolium
- Achillea millefolium L. var. borealis (Bong.) Farw.
(found in Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and
- Achillea borealis Bong.
- Achillea borealis Bong. ssp. typica Keck
- Achillea millefolium L. ssp. atrotegula Boivin
- Achillea millefolium L. ssp. borealis (Bong.) Breitung
- Achillea millefolium L. var. fulva Boivin
- Achillea millefolium L. var. parviligula Boivin
- Achillea millefolium L. var. parvula Boivin
The plant is always trivial to identify.
Among members of the Aster family, the fern-like foliage of
Achillea millefolium is rather unusual.
Other members of the Aster family have this kind of foliage include
Anthemis spp. (Mayweeds),
Matricaria spp. (Chamomile),
and Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy).
Species of Anthemis and Matricaria
producb daisy-like flowerheads that are much larger than the flowerheads of
their flowerheads have more
Tanacetum is a larger
plant with medium to dark green foliage.
While its flowerheads are about the same size
as the flowerheads of Achillea millefolium,
they are bright yellow and lack
Furthermore Achillea millefolium Linnaeus
has a quite distinctive odor.
Achillea millefolium is up to 3 feet tall.
It is unbranched, except near the
where the flowerheads occur.
- Growing from rhizomes
that creep beneath the ground surface.
- Between 1 and 3 feet tall.
- Angular, rough, strong.
- Grayish, usually unbranched.
- Furrowed and woody.
- More or less covered with white cobwebby hairs but
some plants may have glabrous stems.
- Grayish green.
- Pleasantly fragrant when crushed.
or ovate-oblong in outline.
- Very finely dissected, with a feathery appearance,
like soft dainty ferns,
i.e. pinnately compound
in form and divided into linear segments.
- Each leaf segment is pinnately cleft or sharply toothed.
- Without petiole,
the base clasping the stem.
- 5 to 12 cm long by 1 inch across,
becoming smaller as they ascend the stems.
- Often crinkled or curled along their
folding upward along the central vein (but sometimes nearly flat).
- Borne in dense flat to domed clusters of 40 to 50 flowers, in
2 to 3 inches in diameter.
- With 4 to 6 but usually 5
white, occasionally pale pink, with 3 teeth.
- With a similar number of
disk florets, cream or pale yellow.
- Small, about 1/4 inch across.
- With pale green
- Blooming from June to October.
and somewhat flattened achenes
(more exactly cypselas).
- Without pappus.
Achillea millefolium is common in the grass, in meadows
pastures and by the roadside, in
grassy banks, hedgerows and waste places, in
disturbed sites, fallow fields, grassy waste areas, and edges of paths,
in sunny positions.
The plant grows in soils with moderate moisture to wet but is drought tolerant.
Plants with only white flowers grow on calcium-rich soils,
but pink-flowered plants may grow on acid soils.
Achillea millefolium can be found in all states of the USA,
in most of Canada, in Groenland and throughout most of Europe,
but is rare in the Mediterranean areas.
The map shows the Canadian provinces and Territories, as well as the USA
states where the plant can be found.
Achillea millefolium, Yarrow, was used for love divination
in the past.
In Ireland young girls would cut a square sod in which grew a
Yarrow plant and place it beneath their pillow
so that they would dream of their sweetheart.
In France and Ireland it is one of the herbs of St. John, and on St. Johns Eve
the Irish hang it in their homes to avert illness.
It has been employed as a snuff and, in the seventeenth century,
it was an ingredient of salads.
In Sweden it has been used in the manufacture of beer.
The peppery leaves and the flowers are used to flavour liqueurs.
The Winnebago people used a yarrow infusion to treat earache, and it was used
by the early American settlers for diarrhoea,
passive haemorrhage and dyspepsia.
One of the plant's constituents, achilleine, was isolated and
used as a quinine substitute at the turn of the century.
Yarrow stalks were used for divination purposes by the ancient Chinese; the I
Ching or Book of Changes is also known as the Yarrow Stalk Oracle. In China
today, yarrow is still used fresh as a poultice for healing wounds, and a
decoction of the whole plant is prescribed for stomach ulcers,
amenorrhoea and abscesses.
Common yarrow has been used as
wound dressing, astringent, antidepressant, stimulant,
fever reducer, blood pressure reducer,
perspiration inducer and baldness preventer for centuries.
(And the last one never worked !)
In Roman times it was called herba militaris and much valued for
The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following:
The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken,
i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of
January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.
- Fuji Mx 700.
- Minolta DiMAGE 7.
- Nikon 2200.
- EPSON Perfection 1650 scanner.
The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:
and if there is no letter it's obviously the Minolta.
- f for the Fuji.
- n for the Nikon.
- s for the EPSON scanner.
Click on the thumbnails to get larger view.
The original photos are usually in TIFF format,
the photos shown are generally in JPEG format,
usually of dimension one half (surface one quarter)
for loading time reduction.
Plants and flowers
Stems and leaves
The stem of the picture on the left was scanned at 300 dpi,
and the dimensions then divided by 2 (surface divided by 4).
The leaves of the picture in the middle were scanned at 300 dpi.
The leaf segment of the picture on the right were scanned at 1200 dpi.