Achillea millefolium Linnaeus

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.


july_20_20.thmb can't be loaded. 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 Asteraceae family.

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 polyploids whose taxonomic status is still uncertain. Some varieties of Achillea millefolium are native to Europe and western Asia, and have effectively naturalized 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 and varieties.

In Québec, a tentative taxomony for the species could be:

Name

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.

Common names

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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.

Synonyms

Since the taxonomy of Achillea millefolium is still not totally resolved, the list of subspecies and varieties that grow in Québec and their synonyms below should only be taken as an indication, not as definitive or complete. draw_b.jpg can't be loaded.

Identification

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 Achillea millefolium; their flowerheads have more ray and disk florets. 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 ray florets. Furthermore Achillea millefolium Linnaeus has a quite distinctive odor.

Description

Achillea millefolium is up to 3 feet tall. It is unbranched, except near the apex, where the flowerheads occur. Stems Leaves Flower heads Fruits

Habitat

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.

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Distribution

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.

Remarks

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, leucorrhoea, 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, antispasmodic, 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 treating wounds.

Gallery

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.

The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:

and if there is no letter it's obviously the Minolta.

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

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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.

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