Achillea millefolium (Common Yarrow)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Achillea
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; fields, prairies, open woods. roadsides
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat clusters 2 to 4 inches across at the end of branching stems in the upper part of the plant. Individual flowers are about ¼ inch across and have 4 to 6 white to pink ray flowers (petals), notched at the tips, and cream colored or pale yellow disc flowers. 

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are narrow and finely divided, feathery and fern-like, up to 6 inches long and 1 inch across and are progressively smaller towards the top of the stem. The leaves and/or stem are often covered in fine hairs, but not always.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of seed heads] The flower heads become oval-elliptic seed heads, drying to brown and may persist into winter. Fruit is a dry seed 1 to 2 mm long.

Notes:

According to Flora of North America (FNA) this species is native, though morphologically variable. FNA goes on to explain that some early botanists considered the variations separate species, others considered them variations of a single species. It seems now this is a Northern Hemisphere species that has hybridized sufficiently between North American and introduced plants to become a single, variable species. While most references treat it as native to North America, the DNR is undecided about its status in MN. We'll go with native for now. Per the county distribution map, Common Yarrow has been found in every Minnesota county except Stevens and Waseca, but in all likelihood it exists there, just hasn't been recorded. While the individual flowers may resemble Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica), the latter has larger and fewer flowers with more than 6 rays, and leaves that are lance-linear, not finely divided.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Lake counties.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Robyn - Litchfield
on: 2010-05-31 18:36:35

It grows all over in Litchfield. A great medicinal herb! God for bruises, burns, radiation, takes pain away from varicose veins, sunburn, but it is renowned for its ability to stop the blood from gushing wounds. Hence it's name "Achillea millefolium", named after the Greek leader of warriors in the Trojan War, who bound the wounds of his warriors with yarrow to staunch the flow of their blood.

Posted by: Nancy
on: 2010-06-20 13:08:33

achillia multifolia is labeled as "native" on your Minnesota Wildflowers site, but as alien in Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to Wildflowers, and on the USDA website. Is this an "oops" or do you have other information on this plant?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-06-21 21:38:50

Nancy, thanks for this particular question, as I have asked it myself.

According to Flora of North America ("FNA" is our definitive guide, see efloras.org) this species is native, though morphologically variable. FNA goes on to explain that some early botanists considered the variations separate species, others considered them variations of a single species. It seems now this is a Northern Hemisphere species that has hybridized sufficiently between North American and introduced plants to become a single, variable species.

FNA calls it native. The MN DNR big list-o-plants calls it "undecided", so it's open to debate.

Posted by: JoAnn - Mounds View
on: 2011-05-16 09:56:11

I have it growing in front of my house. It really seems invasive to me. My grass is almost all yarrow in places. One good thing--it mows nicely, and stays green when the grass is turning brown! The underground root system is almost impossible to get rid of.

Posted by: Ruth - Ogilvie
on: 2011-07-14 10:50:58

I have difficulty telling the difference between yarrow and Queen Anne's Lace. I have heard the the Lace is toxic. Is there some distinction to help determine which is which?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-07-14 11:09:42

There are a number of differences between these two species that you could look for, such as:

  • QAL has very showy bracts under the flower cluster, yarrow has none
  • yarrow leaves are much more finely feathered, QAL leaves (and leaflets) are much broader
  • yarrow flower petals are all the same size and almost square, with small notches at the tip, QAL petals are rounded at the tips and variable in size

Does that help?

Posted by: David - Douglas county, near Alexandria
on: 2013-07-05 16:31:35

We started a small native prairie restoration on sandy soil at our lake cabin. We used a seed mix from a highly regarded source, containing under 1% yarrow. By year three we had a lovely stand with heavy Black-eyed Susan, grays headed coneflower, and a mix of others. This year, yarrow has taken over 90% of the area behind our house, crowding out the other plants. I would definitely call this an undesirable invasive. Is there any other option beside Rounduo to manage the yarrow?

Posted by: chrisdee - My front yard in Mounds View
on: 2014-07-22 00:20:09

Last year My Mom's neighbor asked if she'd like some ferns. I took some too only to find out when they bloomed they weren't ferns they were yellow yarrow. They are very invasive in my front flower bed, easily crowding out the other plants. I have been pulling them out by the root to keep them under control. The foliage is pleasant but the blooms are homely. They only stay yellow for a very short time and then they darken. So I pull the flower heads off too. A lot of work but as I said the foliage is pretty.

Posted by: Michael - Chaska
on: 2016-07-03 09:39:30

The garden stores sell Yarrow in all sorts of colors. We are planting a pollinator garden. Do the "unnatural" colors attract bees & butterflies as well as the natural ones?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-03 11:55:26

Michael, the yarrow found in garden centers is not necessarily a native species. Regardless, while the study of native cultivars and pollinators is in its infancy, preliminary findings show that they are not as attractive to insects as the straight species.

Posted by: Gabe M - Goodhue Co.
on: 2016-07-20 13:23:04

Just curious if there is a way to differentiate between the subspecies. Specifically, var. millefolium from var. occidentalis. In my research, it shows that the var. occidentalis is native to the US, whereas the var. millefolium is European. We assume to have both here, but I don't know how to verify that claim.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-20 14:38:25

According to Flora of North America, the North American and European species have hybridized sufficiently where it isn't really possible to tell them apart, nor can it be confirmed a "pure" strain still exists.

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