Common Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

Alaska Wildflowers | White

Common Yarrow plant in Fairbanks, Alaska

Common Yarrow

Achillea millefolium L.

many (see below)

Common Names:
common yarrow
northern Yarrow
western yarrow
carpenter’s weed
hierba de las cortaduras

Genus: Achillea L. (yarrow)
Family: Asteraceae/Compositae (Aster family)
Order: Asterales

Duration: Perennial


For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

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The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw, although typically very bitter. Leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. It has also been used as a flavoring in beer. Common yarrow has been used medicinally since ancient times worldwide, including by Native American tribes for everything from treatment for common cold and sore throat, as a headache remedy, treatment for burns, and as a sleeping aid [NAEB]. Yarrow can be used as an insect repellent and to treat contact dermatitis. There is considerable evidence that it can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [Nemeth].

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Common yarrow is an erect shrublet, up to 1 m (3.25 ft) tall. The stems may be simple or branched. Leaves are petiolate, fern-like, pinnately lobed, lanceolate, or oblong blades that reduce in size higher up on the stem. The inflorescence is composed of tiny flowers bloom in dense clusters (corymb) at the top of the stems. The disc florets (petals) are white or grayish-white and about 2-5 mm in length while the inner ray florets may be white to deep purple.

Distribution and Habitat

Achillea millefolium is very widespread in the northern hemisphere. It is native to Alaska and most temperate regions in North America and Eurasia. Common yarrow grows in a variety of environments. It is most often seen in meadows and roadsides but can also be found on stream banks and woodlands. It can grow in dry to damp and sandy to clayey soils.


RankScientific Name (Common Name
KingdomPlantae (Plants)
SubkingdomTracheobionta (Vascular plants)
SuperdivisionSpermatophyta (Seed plants)
DivisionMagnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
FamilyAsteraceae ⁄ Compositae (Aster family)
GenusAchillea L. (yarrow)
SpeciesAchillea millefolium L. (common yarrow)

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Achillea borealis Bong.
Achillea millefolium ssp. borealis (Bong.) Breitung
Achillea laxiflora Pollard & Cockerell
Achillea millefolium var. millefolium L.
Achillea millefolium var. alpicola (Rydb.) Garrett
Achillea millefolium var. arenicola (A. Heller) Nobs
Achillea millefolium var. californica (Pollard) Jeps.
Achillea millefolium var. gigantea (Pollard) Nobs
Achillea millefolium var. litoralis Ehrend. ex Nobs
Achillea millefolium var. megacephala (Raup) B. Boivin
Achillea millefolium var. nigrescens E. Mey.
Achillea millefolium ssp. occidentalis (DC.) Hyl.
Achillea millefolium var. pacifica (Rydb.) G.N. Jones
Achillea millefolium var. puberula (Rydb.) Nobs
Achillea alpicola (Rydb.) Rydb.
Achillea angustissima Rydb.
Achillea arenicola A. Heller
Achillea aspleniifolia auct. non Vent.
Achillea californica Pollard
Achillea eradiata Piper
Achillea fusca Rydb.
Achillea gigantea Pollard
Achillea gracilis Raf.
Achillea lanulosa Nutt.
Achillea megacephala Raup
Achillea nigrescens (E. Mey.) Rydb.
Achillea occidentalis (DC.) Raf. ex Rydb.
Achillea pacifica Rydb.
Achillea puberula Rydb.
Achillea rosea Desf.
Achillea subalpina Greene
Achillea tomentosa Pursh non L.
Achillea borealis ssp. arenicola (A. Heller) D.D. Keck
Achillea borealis ssp. californica (Pollard) D.D. Keck

Achillea borealis ssp. typica D.D. Keck
Achillea lanulosa ssp. alpicola (Rydb.) D.D. Keck
Achillea lanulosa ssp. megacephala (Raup) Argus
Achillea lanulosa ssp. typica D.D. Keck
Achillea millefolium ssp. atrotegula B. Boivin
Achillea millefolium ssp. lanulosa (Nutt.) Piper
Achillea millefolium ssp. pallidotegula B. Boivin
Achillea millefolium var. borealis (Bong.) Farw.
Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis DC.
Achillea borealis var. arenicola (A. Heller) J.T. Howell
Achillea borealis var. californica (Pollard) J.T. Howell
Achillea lanulosa var. alpicola Rydb.
Achillea lanulosa var. arachnoidea Lunell
Achillea lanulosa var. eradiata (Piper) M. Peck
Achillea millefolium var. aspleniifolia (Vent.) Farw.
Achillea millefolium var. fulva B. Boivin
Achillea millefolium var. fusca (Rydb.) G.N. Jones
Achillea millefolium var. gracilis (Raf.) Raf. ex DC.
Achillea millefolium var. lanulosa (Nutt.) Piper
Achillea millefolium var. maritima Jeps.
Achillea millefolium var. parviligula B. Boivin
Achillea millefolium var. parvula B. Boivin
Achillea millefolium var. rosea (Desf.) Torr. & A. Gray
Achillea millefolium var. russeolata B. Boivin
Achillea magna auct.

References and Further Reading

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 71

Achillea millefolium  L. Taxonomic Serial No.: 35423, ITIS Database

Achillea millefolium L. common yarrow, USDA Database

Achillea millefolium L. Common Yarrow, Native American Ethnobotany Database

1. Achillea millefolium Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 899. 1753., Flora of North America (

Nemeth E, Bernath J. Biological activities of yarrow species (Achillea spp.). Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(29):3151-3167. doi:10.2174/138161208786404281

All online content accessed August 2020 unless otherwise noted

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