Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Achillea millefolium, Common Yarrow

Common Yarrow is variable across its extreme range. Flowers are showy pink to whitish in large clusters. Plants bloom from April to October across its geographical range. Achillea millefoliumCommon Yarrow. In the United States, observed native specimens of A. millefolium are thought to include genetic material from native plants, introduced plants and their hybrids. Achillea millefoliumCommon Yarrow has finely dissected leaves easily identified in the seedling stage. In New Mexico and southern Colorado the common name for this plant is "Plumajillo", Spanish for "little feather" a reference to the fine feathery like leaves. Achillea millefoliumCommon Yarrow is an interesting plant where it is a weed to some, a worthwhile garden cultivar to others and one variety, Achillea "borealis", is protected by the state of Maine as a Species of Special Concern. Achillea millefolium

Scientific Name: Achillea millefolium
Common Name: Common Yarrow
Also Called: Bloodwort, Carpenter's Weed, Milfoil, Plumajillo, Western Yarrow, Yarrow (Spanish: Canfor, Hierba de Las Cortaduras)
Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family
Synonyms: (Achillea alpicola, Achillea angustissima, Achillea arenicola, Achillea aspleniifolia, Achillea borealis, Achillea b. subsp. arenicola, Achillea b. subsp. californica, Achillea b. subsp. typica, Achillea b. var. arenicola, Achillea b. var. californica, Achillea californica, Achillea eradiata, Achillea fusca, Achillea gigantea, Achillea gracilis, Achillea lanulosa, Achillea l. subsp. alpicola, Achillea l. subsp. megacephala, Achillea l. subsp. typica, Achillea l. var. alpicola, Achillea l. var. arachnoidea, Achillea l. var. eradiata, Achillea laxiflora, Achillea megacephala, Achillea millefolium subsp. atrotegula, Achillea m. subsp. borealis, Achillea m. subsp. lanulosa, Achillea m. subsp. occidentalis, Achillea m. subsp. pallidotegula, Achillea m. var. alpicola, Achillea m. var. arenicola, Achillea m. var. aspleniifolia, Achillea m. var. borealis, Achillea m. var. californica, Achillea m. var. fulva, Achillea m. var. fusca, Achillea m. var. gigantea, Achillea m. var. gracilis, Achillea m. var. lanulosa, Achillea m. var. litoralis, Achillea m. var. maritima., Achillea m. var. megacephala, Achillea m. var. nigrescens, Achillea m. var. occidentalis, Achillea m. var. pacifica, Achillea m. var. parviligula, Achillea m. var. parvula, Achillea m. var. puberula, Achillea m. var. rosea, Achillea m. var. russeolata, Achillea nigrescens, Achillea occidentalis, Achillea pacifica, Achillea palmeri, Achillea puberula, Achillea rosea, Achillea subalpina, Achillea tomentosa)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial with rhizomes.
Size: 1 foot tall, (3').
Growth Form: Forb/herb; erect typically single stems, branching near the top.
Leaves:Green; alternate, linear, delicate 3-pinnately divided, feathery or fern-like, 4 inches or more long, basal leaves petiolate, cauline smaller, clasping, sessile.
Flower Color: White to pinkish; radiate heads, ray florets rounded, usually 5, disk florets 15 to 40, also white or pink, inflorescence is 1 to many heads in a rounded flat-topped cluster, a corymbose panicle; fruit is an achene.
Flowering Season: June to September in southwestern United States, April to October across range.
Elevation: 5,500 to 11,500 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Multiple habitats, upper deserts, high chaparral, pine forests, arid or moist habitats, pastures, meadows, roadsides, stream sides, waste grounds, dry or sandy soils, disturbed areas.

Recorded Range: Common Yarrow is found throughout the United States and Canada. It is also native to Baja California, Mexico Asia and Europe. The plants have been introduced in AK, HI, New Zealand and Australia and considered a weed.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Achillea millefolium.

U.S. Weed Information: Achillea millefolium is listed in: Weeds of Kentucky and adjacent states; Weeds of the Northeast; Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains; and Weeds of the United States and Canada. Plants included here may become weedy or invasive.

Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No data available.

Wetland Indicator: In North America Achillea millefolium has the following wetland designations: Alaska, FACU; Arid West, FACU; Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, FACU; Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, FACU; Great Plains, FACU; Midwest, FACU; Northcentral & Northeast, FACU and Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FACU.
FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands

Threatened/Endangered Information: The State of Maine has listed Northern Yarrow, Achillea millefolium var. borealis as a Species of Special Concern.

Genus Information: In North America there are 31 species and x accepted taxa overall for Achillea. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 151 accepted species names with 330 infraspecific rank for the genus Achillea.

In the Southwestern United States, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas have 1 species of Achillea, California and Utah each have 2 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Throughout North America there are 12 varieties in Achillea millefolium, 8 varieties in the southwestern United States (California has 8, other southwest states 2 varieties.)

Comments: Common Yarrow is a strong scented plant, extremely variable and widespread throughout the northern hemisphere including Arizona’s high country. Not a desert species but common where found. It has such variable characteristics that it has been classified both as a single species with 12 varieties and as individual species numbering almost 60. In the United States, observed native specimens of A. millefolium are thought to include genetic material from native plants, introduced plants and their hybrids.

This interesting plant is a weed to some, a worthwhile garden cultivar to others and one variety, Achillea "borealis", is protected by the state of Maine as a Species of Special Concern.

The characteristic finely dissected leaves are easily identified in the seedling stage. In New Mexico and southern Colorado the common name for this plant is "Plumajillo", Spanish for "little feather" a reference to the fine feathery like leaves.

This species is drought-tolerant and often used in native plant, wildlife and butterfly gardens. However, improved cultivars have replaced the native species because of the array of beautiful color varieties. Achillea millefolium is known to attract butterflies and some bees.

FEIS: IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Western yarrow varies greatly in forage value, depending on locality and seasonal development. It is generally unpalatable, although domestic livestock and wildlife occasionally consume the flowers. Cattle and horses usually do not graze western yarrow, but bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and deer may use it. They most often graze the flower-heads. Western yarrow provides fair forage for domestic sheep and goats. For a comprehensive thoroughly documented review of Achillea millefolium see the USDA USFS Fire Effects Information System, or FEIS.

Common Yarrow has long been used for a multitude of purposes by indigenous peoples throughout North America.
  • Abnaki Drug, Cold Remedy; Infusion of whole plant given to children for colds.
  • Algonquin, Tete-de-Boule Drug, Analgesic; Decoction of leaves and flowers used for headaches.
  • Blackfoot Drug, Antirheumatic (External); Poultice of chewed flowers applied to swollen parts.
  • Cherokee Drug, Dermatological Aid; Astringent leaves used for hemorrhages and bowel complaints.
  • Cheyenne Drug, Antiemetic; Infusion of fresh or dried plant taken for nausea.
  • Paiute Drug, Dermatological Aid and Analgesic; Decoction of leaves and stems used as a liniment for skin sores. Poultice of fresh, mashed and boiled leaves applied to sprained ankle pains.
  • Navajo Drug, Dermatological Aid; Infusion of plant used as a wash for cuts and saddle sores.
  • Shoshoni Drug, Anesthetic; Poultice of fresh roots applied to deaden pain so wound could be opened.
  • Ute Drug, Dermatological Aid; Poultice of plant applied externally to bruises.
  • Zuni Drug, Burn Dressing; Blossoms and root chewed and juice applied before fire-eating or -walking.
  • See the complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 3/16/2013; Updated, 07/25/2015, updated 08/30/2017
    Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California as Achillea lanulosa.
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database (accessed 08/28/2017).
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/28/2017).
    Debra K. Trock, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae | Achillea; 1. Achillea millefolium Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 899. 1753. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Aleksoff, Keith C. 1999. Achillea millefolium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2017, August 30].
    David J. Keil 2017. Achillea millefolium, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, accessed on August 30, 2017.
    Wikipedia contributors. "Achillea millefolium." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Aug. 2017. Web. 28 Aug. 2017
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 08/29/2017). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Don Knoke, David Giblin;, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Achillea millefolium, common yarrow, milfoil University of Washington, Burke Museum, (accessed 08/30/2017).
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information (accessed 08/23/2017).