You will find Achilea millefolium in a variety of habitats from hedgerows and pasture to waste ground, thriving best on poorer soils. It grows from lowlands up to considerable altitudes.
In the garden it is valuable for the subtle range of colours the flowers show, often fading a second colour. The range is from pure white, through soft pinks and vibrant reds to pink and lavender. Also there are oranges, yellows.. As a bonus, the flower heads dry well for dried arrangements. They are excellent plants for the border, where they will flower twice if cut back. Longevity is increased on poorer drier soils. Consequently, they excel in xeriscapes – very dry plantings. They tolerate mowing excellently and are very hardy. Their main enemy is excessive winter wet.
The leaves of Achillea millefolium are strongly astringent and prove excellent in helping to heal cuts made by steel. Clean cuts can find it hard to knit together. If you chew the leaves of Achillea and then placed them in the wound, the astringent qualities tighten the wound and then their rough nature provides a structure for the wound to heal across. In days when swords where the weapon of choice, soldiers would carry achillea as part of their standard kit, leading to common names such as Soldier’s Woundwort.
Naming and Folklore
The Greeks named Achillea after Achilles, the legendary heroic warrior who they believed discovered the plants properties. The common name yarrow is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘gearwe’ the name of this plant. The specific epithet ‘millefolium’ or ‘thousand leaf’ refers to the much divided leaf.