The Naturalist in Wilton: Loving our lawn weeds yarrow

Sam Nunes, who is an environmental educator at the Woodcock Nature Center in Wilton, writes this monthly guest column titled:

Sam Nunes, who is an environmental educator at the Woodcock Nature Center in Wilton, writes this monthly guest column titled: “The Naturalist,” about the plants called yarrow, that are also known as common yarrow, in “Loving our lawn weeds yarrow.”

Contributed photo

Each year in May I like to shed some light on the ways that lawn weeds can actually benefit us and our health. “Weed” is a word we use for a plant that is unwelcome, unwanted, and perhaps grows a bit out of control. But if we can learn a little more about their nutritional and medicinal benefits, as well as the benefits of biodiveristy in our lawns, maybe we can change our perspectives and respect these beautiful plants a little more.

Scattered throughout our lawns sometimes is a small plant with soft leaves. This plant is called common yarrow. Left uncut, it can grow to be over a foot tall, but our lawnmowers tend to keep them smaller. Yarrow likes sunnier parts of the yard but can tolerate some shade as well. It is excellent for supporting pollinator populations, as their flowers attract butterflies, bees, and other insects.

Yarrow is excellent for aiding your body’s response to cold and flus. Steeped in a hot tea, it can help stimulate sweating, which is your body’s natural way to cool itself when you have a fever. Sweat also helps to remove waste from your body.

Yarrow has astringent (drying) effects, so you can use it to help stop bleeding on small wounds. It was said that Achilles, from Greek mythology, used the plant to heal the wounds of soldiers in the Trojan Wars. This is how the plant got its Latin name, Achillea millefolium. Yarrow is also sacred to the indigenous tribes of North America and the Chinese, who considered the plant to be good luck.

When it comes to foraging, make sure that if you decide to eat or make tea with plants from your yard, they have not been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. Plants absorb anything we put on or near them, so if you use chemicals on your lawn, your plants aren’t safe to eat. Also avoid eating plants from along the road sides. But otherwise -- pick away! These plants are very healthy. I pick them from my backyard all the time!

Sources: https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_acmi2.pdf

“Herbal Remedies” By Andrew Chevallier https://www.ediblewildfood.com/common-yarrow.aspx, and

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/achillea_millefolium.shtml.