A Very Useful Native Herb

Achillea millefolium
Common Yarrow

  • Regular to moderate water (BOTTOM ZONE)

  • Full sun to shade. Will bloom best with at least half a day of sun.

  • Hardy to around -40º F

  • A low growing perennial which can reach a few feet with the blooms but normally under a foot tall.

  • White, sometimes pinkish flowers from summer into fall.

  • Larval host for the painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui).

  • Excellent nectar plant

  • A useful herb, formally used to flavor and preserve beer (with other herbs) like hops are used.

This yarrow is native across a very wide region, in both the old and new world. Our own version of this species is native to elevations above 5000 feet (though it does just fine in cultivation in the low desert, even in full sun). It is naturally found growing under canopies of trees (usually pines) and on trailsides and roadsides in the mountains.

We have grown this plant in our garden as well as in the landscape. When in the garden, with the improved soil and plentiful moisture, yarrow can take full sun. In the landscape, with the soil being slightly less improved and using much less water, yarrow is best planted in part sun.

As a wildlife plant yarrow is fantastic. Birds use the ferny-like foliage in their nest-building, and some research suggests that it keeps parasites down. The flowers are visited by an incredible array of nectar-feeding insects and the plant is a larval host for the painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) as well as countless moths, beetles, and true bugs.

Yarrow is a multipurpose herb. In the old days, soldiers would use yarrow to stauch the flow of blood over wounds. The herb is used medicinally for an array of aliments. Yarrow flowers and leaves are sometimes added sparingly in salads. part of a herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavoring of beer prior to the use of hops. It is also used in combination with other herbs in several liquors and bitters.

Katherine Gierlach