Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plant profile: Achillea

Achillea - ordinary
Does this plant look familiar? It’s predictable, boring, and actually a weed. Not! More like dependable, heat-loving, drought-spurning, long-flowering, easy to grow and comes in a great range of colors.

Latin name: Achillea (pronounced ack-ee-LAY-ah)
Common name: Yarrow, Sneezeweed, Milfoil, as well as the others mentioned below.*
Originally from: Europe and parts of Asia.
Blooms: White, yellow, red and pink, the large clusters of flowers form a flat platform at the top of the plant.
"Coronation Gold"
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought flippant. Actually, good luck killing the white kind...
Drainage: Well drained soil
Height x width: 24"-36" x 24"
USDA Zones:  3-9
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left bed by the steps we have Achillea tomentosa (Woolly Yarrow) and several shades of A. millefolium: the wild white version (top), yellow ("Coronation Gold" and "Moonshine" - second pic) and orange ("Terracotta") In the front middle bed we have the red/orange “Walter Funke” (third pic) and the mixed shades of "Summer Pastels" under the cherry plum trees, with "Red Velvet" and "Feuerland" in the red bed.  Finally, in the front bed we have the pink "Cerise Queen” (last pic.)


"Moonshine"
The Achillea genus has about 85 species in it, in the Aster family. The genus was named for the Greek mythological character Achilles. According to the Iliad, the centaur Chiron taught Achilles to use yarrow on the battle grounds of Troy, hence some of its common names such as Allheal and Bloodwort. Herbal militaris was another name used way back when, for the same reason.


"Walter Funke"
Yarrow has seen historical use as a medicine for all sorts of things in all sorts of cultures, mainly because of its astringent effects and the salicylic acid in it. It’s been used to treat inflammations such as piles (hemorrhoids), and also headaches. Confusingly, it has been said to both stop bleeding and promote it, as well as speed recovery from severe bruising.

The Saxons believed it gave protection from everything from blindness to barking dogs, the Chinese use dried yarrow stalks to cast the Yi-Jing, Shakers used yarrow for complaints from hemorrhages to flatulence and in the 1500s, the British herbalist John Gerard recommended it for relieving "swelling of those secret parts." Lordy!

The most medicinally active part of the plant are the flowering tops. They also have a mild stimulant effect, and have been used as a snuff. Today, yarrow is valued mainly for its action in colds and influenza, and also for its effect on the circulatory, digestive, excretory, and urinary systems. It's basically a one-stop shop for all your ailments!

"Cerise Queen”
* Old folk names of yarrow include bad man's plaything, death flower, devil's nettle, seven year's love, snake's grass and arrowroot. You know when a plant has names like that that it’s been around for a long time, and has a lot of uses. Achillea millefolium is the species we have grown so far, and in New Mexico and southern Colorado it is called plumajillo, or "little feather," for the shape of the leaves.

UPDATE: After several years of drought I can definitively say the regular old white kind of Achillea is a weed. It runs everywhere and cannot be killed, which I endeavor to do frequently. The other kinds are not so sassy and look lovely, though only the "Coronation Gold" lasted and I will have to get a few more of those!

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful. I always overlook this plant when shopping, since I find it unimpressive as seedlings in pots, but when I see it growing in a garden I really like it. :)

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  2. Yeah I was suprised how they really took off! Tall and bushy. I know they die back in winter but they have been flowering for so long it's worth it :)

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  3. Funny you should comment on dieback, I have to cut all of my perennials down in the fall or spring (then they grow back from the roots), and was wondering if that was the case for you too? Gardening would be quite a bit less work if plants could just grow & thrive year round.:)

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  4. Well, I *assume* that's the case - this garden is only 10 months old so I'm about to find out what happens in the late fall/winter there for the first time! However, I do hear that in CA some plants just grow year round. We'll see!

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