AskDefine | Define yarrow

The Collaborative Dictionary

Yarrow \Yar"row\, n. [OE. yarowe, yarwe, [yogh]arowe, AS. gearwe; akin to D. gerw, OHG. garwa, garawa, G. garbe, schafgarbe, and perhaps to E. yare.] (Bot.) An American and European composite plant (Achillea Millefolium) with very finely dissected leaves and small white corymbed flowers. It has a strong, and somewhat aromatic, odor and taste, and is sometimes used in making beer, or is dried for smoking. Called also milfoil, and nosebleed. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

yarrow n : ubiquitous strong-scented mat-forming Eurasian herb of wasteland, hedgerow or pasture having narrow serrate leaves and small usually white florets; widely naturalized in North America [syn: milfoil, Achillea millefolium]

English

Pronunciation

Noun

yarrow
  1. any of several pungent Eurasian herbs, of the genus Achillea, used sparingly in cooking

Synonyms

Translations

Achillea millefolium or Yarrow (other common names Common Yarrow, Gordaldo, Nosebleed plant, Old Man's Pepper, Sanguinary, Milfoil, Soldier's Woundwort, Thousand-leaf (as its binomial name affirms), Thousand-seal) is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere.

Description

Common Yarrow is an erect herbaceous perennial plant that produces one to several stems (0.2 to 1m tall) and has a rhizomatous growth form. Leaves are evenly distributed along the stem, with the leaves near the middle and bottom of the stem being the largest. The leaves have varying degrees of hairiness (pubescence). The leaves are 5-20 cm long, bipinnate or tripinnate, almost feathery, and arranged spirally on the stems. The leaves are cauline and more or less clasping. The inflorescence has 4 to 9 phyllaries and contains ray and disk flowers which are white to pink. There are generally 3 to 8 ray flowers that are ovate to round. Disk flowers range from 15 to 40. The inflorescence is produced in a flat-topped cluster. Yarrow grows up to 3500m above sea level. The plant commonly flowers from May through June, and is a frequent component in butterfly gardens. Common yarrow is frequently found in the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and open forests. Active growth occurs in the spring.

Establishment

Common yarrow is a drought tolerant species of which there are several different ornamental cultivars. Seeds require light for germination, so optimal germination occurs when planted no deeper than ¼ inch. Seeds also require a temperature of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Common yarrow responds best to soil that is poorly developed and well drained. The plant has a relatively short life, but may be prolonged by dividing the plant every other year, and planting 12 to 18 inches apart. Common yarrow is a weedy species and can become invasive. It may suffer from mildew or root rot if not planted in well-drained soil.
There are several varieties and subspecies:
  • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. millefolium - Europe, Asia
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. alpicola - Rocky Mountains
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. borealis - Arctic regions
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. californica - California
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. occidentalis - North America
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. pacifica - west coast of North America
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. puberula - California
    • Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium var. rubra - Southern Appalachians
  • Achillea millefolium subsp. chitralensis - western Himalaya
  • Achillea millefolium subsp. sudetica - Alps, Carpathians

Cultivation and uses

Yarrows can be planted to combat soil erosion due to the plant's resistance to drought.
The herb is purported to be a diaphoretic, astringent, tonic

Dangers

In rare cases, yarrow can cause severe allergic skin rashes; prolonged use can increase the skin's photosensitivity.
In one study alcohol extracts of yarrow impaired the sperm production of laboratory rats.

Trivia

  • The most authentic way to cast the Yi Jing uses dried yarrow stalks. The stems are said to be good for divining the future.
  • In China, it is said that it grows around the grave of Confucius.
  • Chinese proverbs claim that yarrow brightens the eyes and promotes intelligence.
  • In the 1500s, the British herbalist John Gerard recommended it for relieving "swelling of those secret parts."
  • Some people believed that you could determine the devotion of a lover by poking a yarrow leaf up your nostril and twitching the leaf while saying, "Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow: if my love loves me, my nose will bleed now." (Yarrow is a nasal irritant, and generally causes the nose to bleed if inserted).
  • Homer tells us that the centaur Chiron, who conveyed herbal secrets to his human pupils, taught Achilles to use yarrow on the battle grounds of Troy. Achilles is said to have used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. For centuries it has been carried in battle because of its magical as well as medicinal properties.
  • Yarrow grows native in the orient. Oriental tradition assured mountain wanderers that where the yarrow grew neither tigers nor wolves nor poisonous plants would be found.
  • Nursery rhymes say if you put a yarrow sachet under your pillow, you will dream of your own true love. If you dream of cabbages (the leaves do have a similar scent), then death or other serious misfortune will strike.
  • Yarrow was one of the herbs put in Saxon amulets. These amulets were for protection from everything from blindness, to barking dogs.
  • In the Middle Ages, witches were said to use yarrow to make incantations. This may be the source for the common names devil's nettle, devils plaything, and bad man's plaything.
  • Western European tradition connects yarrow with a goddess and a demon. Yarrow was a witching herb, used to summon the devil or drive him away. But it was also a loving herb in the domain of Aphrodite.
  • Hang a bunch of dried yarrow or yarrow that had been used in wedding decorations over the bed, to ensure a lasting love for at least seven years.
  • Shakers used yarrow for complaints from haemorrhages to flatulence
  • Navajo Indians consider it to be a "life medicine", and chewed it for toothaches, and poured an infusion into ears for earaches.
  • Several tribes of the Plains region of the United States used common yarrow. The Pawnee used the stalk for pain relief. The Chippewa used the leaves for headaches by inhaling it in a steam. They also chewed the roots and applied the saliva to their appendages as a stimulant. The Cherokee drank a tea of common yarrow to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep.
  • During the excavation of a 40,000-60,000 year old neanderthal tomb, pollen from yarrow (among other herbs) was found.
  • It has been used as a Quinine substitute
  • Yarrow and tortoiseshell are considered to be lucky in Chinese superstitions.

Gallery

image:mp-Achillea millefolium.jpg http://bwca.cc/wildflowers/flowerimages/yarrow.jpg image:red_Achillea_millefolium.jpg

References

Other references

Hickman, James C., Ed. The Jepson Manual: Higher plants of California. 1993. University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London.

External links

  • [http://sun.ars-grin.gov:8080/npgspub/xsql/duke/plantdisp.xsql?taxon=18 Achillea millefolium (Dr. Duke's Databases)]
yarrow in Bosnian: Hajdučka trava
yarrow in Bulgarian: Бял равнец
yarrow in Catalan: Milfulles
yarrow in Danish: Almindelig Røllike
yarrow in German: Gemeine Schafgarbe
yarrow in Spanish: Achillea millefolium
yarrow in Persian: بومادران
yarrow in French: Achillée millefeuille
yarrow in Galician: Milfollas
yarrow in Upper Sorbian: Wowča rutwica
yarrow in Italian: Achillea millefolium
yarrow in Lithuanian: Paprastoji kraujažolė
yarrow in Limburgan: Hazegerf
yarrow in Hungarian: Közönséges cickafark
yarrow in Dutch: Duizendblad
yarrow in Japanese: セイヨウノコギリソウ
yarrow in Norwegian: Ryllik
yarrow in Polish: Krwawnik pospolity
yarrow in Portuguese: Achillea millefolium
yarrow in Romanian: Coada şoricelului
yarrow in Russian: Тысячелистник обыкновенный
yarrow in Albanian: Bari mijëfletësh
yarrow in Slovak: Rebríček obyčajný
yarrow in Serbian: Хајдучка трава
yarrow in Finnish: Siankärsämö
yarrow in Swedish: Röllika
yarrow in Turkish: Civanperçemi
yarrow in Ukrainian: Деревій звичайний
yarrow in Urdu: اَلفیہ
yarrow in Samogitian: Kraužoule
yarrow in Chinese: 西洋蓍草
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