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Fern-leaf yarrow (A.
Milfoil, Yarrow, Common yarrow, Cottage yarrow (A.
has corymb-type inflorescences, consisting of individual stems
of flower clusters that branch out from the main stem to produce
flat-topped or convex flower heads. The flower clusters are
dense masses of tiny daisylike flowers.
Fern-leaf yarrow (A. filipendulina) flower heads can
grow up to 6 inches in width atop stems as tall as 4 feet.
Foliage is green, fernlike and often aromatic.
Milfoil/yarrow/cottage yarrow (A. millefolium) flower
heads usually are much smaller, on stems that typically top out
at 2 feet in length. Leaves are green, gray or silver; feathery;
Fern-leaf yarrow is most commonly available in golden yellow
hues although there are a few white varieties.
Milfoil/yarrow/cottage yarrow is available in a range of pinks,
reds and oranges as well as white.
With proper care,
fern-leaf yarrow can last up to three weeks. It also dries well,
adding months or even years to its decorative life.
Milfoil/yarrow/cottage yarrow has a shorter vase life—usually
five to 10 days.
Yarrow is available
year-round, depending on species and variety; peak season,
however, is April through October.
Immediately upon its arrival, remove yarrow from the shipping
boxes, and check flower quality. Next, remove any leaves that
would be under water in the storage containers, and recut the
stems with a sharp knife or pruner, removing at least 1 inch of
stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stem ends into
a hydration solution, then place them into clean, disinfected
containers half filled with warm (100 F to 110 F) properly
proportioned flower-food solution.
After processing, place yarrow into a floral cooler, and allow
the flowers to hydrate for at least two hours before using or
selling them. Studies show that some species of yarrow are chill
sensitive, so refrigeration at 39 F to 45 F is advised.
Consumers can air dry fresh yarrow by hanging stems upside down
in a cool, dark and dry environment for one to two weeks (drying
time varies with humidity levels). Yarrow also can be preserved
by placing stems in a 50/50 solution of glycerin and water when
(or just before) they reach peak development.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
The botanical name Achillea honors Achilles, the
Trojan warrior, who regularly gave an infusion made from
yarrow to his soldiers to treat their wounds.
Containing more than 240 chemicals, yarrow has been used for
centuries to treat a variety of internal and external
maladies including pain; fevers; gastrointestinal
distresses; and wounds, burns, bruises, lesions, sprains and
strains. Dried flowers, leaves and even roots were steeped
in boiling water to make a tealike infusion that was
consumed or applied topically.
Achillea is a member of the huge Asteraceae/Compositae
(composite/ sunflower) family. Close relatives include
chrysanthemums, Gerberas, Dahlias, Zinnias,
Asters, marigolds and black-eyed Susans.
HOME SWEET HOME
Achillea is native to Europe and western Asia but it
has naturalized as a weed in North America, Australia and
Purchase fresh yarrow when the tiny blooms composing the
flower heads are fully open. If yarrow is
harvested too early, the flowers will not open and will
- Make sure the flowers'
colors are rich and vibrant. Faded colors indicate
flowers are past their prime.
- Check for browning
flowers or rot in the centers of the flower heads.
- Make sure the foliage is
turgid and full of color.
- Look for stems that are
straight, sturdy and free of slime.
Photos courtesy of
California Cut Flower Commission
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G.
Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® ,
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe
New Pronouncing Dictionary of Plant Names by