Tag Archives: etymology

Wandering Yarrow

Common Yarrow

My walk to work usually takes about 40 minutes and it takes me through suburbs and a park. I always admire the foliage, flowers, trees and the birds singing. I love to watch the changing colours as the seasons turn.

This morning, I discovered common yarrow growing on the side of the footpath. There is nothing common about this little beauty. Not knowing at first what this plant/weed was, I picked a sprig and crushed the leaves. Wow, the smell was deliciously sweet. I looked it up and identified the plant.

Yarrow, or achillea millefolium, has a long extant history. It is said that Achilles, the greek warrior, used this herb to heal his wounded soldiers in the Trojan War. It has gained the name herbal militaris for its properties that aid the staunching of blood flow from wounds. It grows as a wildflower throughout Ireland and flourishes in sunny areas. Its leaves are green and feathery and it has little white daisy-like flowers from June until August.

Yarrow was a popular ward against evil. As a result, it has also been called the devil’s plaything.

Its medicinal properties make it a useful herb to use to fight colds and flus. It is good combined with elderflower in tea infusions as it can help promote sweating to rid fevers.

Its modern Irish name is athair taluin and in old Irish it may have been referred to as eimer. It is thought that the name of Cu Chulainn’s wife, Emer, may be derived from this plant.

Yarrow is a great plant to grow in an allotment. It attracts aphid eating insects such as ladybirds and lacewing. Therefore it would be ideal to plant it beside broccoli. I’ve read somewhere that, supposedly, yarrow leaves aid in a more rapid process on the compost heap.

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