Size: 2 to 26 inches (6-65 cm) tall or up to 3 feet (.92 cm) or more.
Growth Form:Forb/herb; creeping root-stalk; erect typically single stems (4), branching near the top; plants covered with soft, often matted short woolly hairs or hairless; plants aromatic.
Leaves: Green; basal leaves with short stalks, upper stem leaves more or less clasping the stem and without a stalk at the base of the leaf (sessile); leaves are finely dissected (deeply-cut), 3-pinnately divided; foliage smooth (glabrate) to sparsely covered in dense soft matted hairs, or densely covered with long woolly hairs; alternate along stem.
Flowering Season: April, May or June through September or October across a wide geographic range.
Elevation: 5,500 to 11,500 feet (1,600-3,500 m).
Habitat Preferences: Multiple habitat types, not a low desert species, upper deserts, high chaparral, mostly in mountains in pine forests, arid or moist habitats; clay, sandy or salty soils; pastures, meadows, roadsides, stream-sides, waste grounds, disturbed areas.
Recorded Range: Common Yarrow is found throughout the United States and Canada south to Baja California and Mexico.
North America species range map for Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
Click image for full size map
U.S. Weed Information:Achillea millefolium is listed in:
Weeds of Kentucky and adjacent states;
Weeds of the Northeast;
Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains;
Weeds of the United States and Canada.
Plants included here may become weedy or invasive.
Comments: Common Yarrow is a strong scented plant, extremely variable and widespread throughout the northern hemisphere including Arizona’s high country. Not a desert species but it is common where found and may be encountered in high desert situations. It has such variable characteristics that it has been classified both as a single species with 12 varieties and as individual species numbering almost 60. In the United States, observed native specimens of Achillea millefolium are thought to include genetic material from native plants, introduced plants and their hybrids.
This interesting plant is a weed to many and a worthwhile garden cultivar to others.
The characteristic finely dissected leaves are easily identified in the seedling stage. In New Mexico and southern Colorado the common name for this plant is "Plumajillo", Spanish for "little feather" a reference to the fine feathery like leaves.
Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
According to the USGS Fire Effects Information System (FEIS), Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium varies greatly in forage value, depending on locality and seasonal development. It is generally unpalatable although domestic livestock and wildlife occasionally consume the flowers. Cattle and horses usually do not graze Common Yarrow. However, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and deer may graze the flower-heads (FEIS).
Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
The species epithet "millefolium" (millefo'lium:) means with many leaves, or leaf segments, literally "a thousand leaves."
Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium has long been used for a multitude of purposes by indigenous peoples throughout North America. Common Yarrow was one of the medicinal herbs that was found at a 60,000 year old Neanderthal burial site in Iraq.
Abnaki Drug, Cold Remedy; Infusion of whole plant given to children for colds.
Algonquin, Tete-de-Boule Drug, Analgesic; Decoction of leaves and flowers used for headaches.
Blackfoot Drug, Antirheumatic (External); Poultice of chewed flowers applied to swollen parts.
Cherokee Drug, Dermatological Aid; Astringent leaves used for hemorrhages and bowel complaints.
Cheyenne Drug, Antiemetic; Infusion of fresh or dried plant taken for nausea.
Paiute Drug, Dermatological Aid and Analgesic; Decoction of leaves and stems used as a liniment for skin sores. Poultice of fresh, mashed and boiled leaves applied to sprained ankle pains.
Navajo Drug, Dermatological Aid; Infusion of plant used as a wash for cuts and saddle sores.
Shoshoni Drug, Anesthetic; Poultice of fresh roots applied to deaden pain so wound could be opened.
Ute Drug, Dermatological Aid; Poultice of plant applied externally to bruises.
Zuni Drug, Burn Dressing; Blossoms and root chewed and juice applied before fire-eating or -walking.
See the complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.