Yarrow (Common Milfoil)

Photo of yarrow or common milfoil flower cluster
Safety Concerns
Skin irritating
Scientific Name
Achillea millefolium
Asteraceae (daisies)

Yarrow is a hairy, aromatic perennial with a simple or branching stem. Flowerheads are minute, in dense, flat-topped, terminal clusters. Ray florets are minute, white, rarely light pink; the disk florets are light yellow. Blooms May–November. The leaves are finely dissected, fernlike, to 10 inches long, narrow-oblong, alternate. The odor is distinctively sweet and rather soapy, akin to the smell of chrysanthemums.

Several cultivars have been developed for the gardener, with a variety of flower colors.


Height: to 2½ feet.

Where To Find
image of Yarrow Common Milfoil Distribution Map


Occurs in fields, pastures, prairies, roadsides, waste places, and disturbed sites. It is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. With its strong odor and host of potent chemicals, it has had many spiritual and medicinal uses in human cultures across the world. Its wild forms can be weedy to the point of invasiveness, but many horticultural varieties have been developed that are easier to manage in gardens.

Yarrow has a long history as a medicinal plant in China, Europe, and North America. In China, it was used for fortune-telling in the I Ching. Europeans long ago used it in magical amulets; today they use it in sheep fodder. Yarrow was found at a Neanderthal burial site in northern Iraq.

Many insects visit the flowers for nectar and pollen, and others eat the leaves. Researchers have found that some cavity-nesting birds, including starlings, line their nests with yarrow, whose aromatic chemicals may inhibit parasites.

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Where to See Species

This 655-acre native prairie was purchased from Vaughn Lumpee in 1987. Mr. Lumpee ran a cattle operation on this area and he had a great fondness for the cowboy lifestyle.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!