If you’re interested in finding and harvesting yarrow, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
Yarrow, aka Achillea millefolium, can grow up to 3-feet high, but most of mine are closer to 18″ to 2′. The leaves are the first thing you’ll notice in the spring. They grow very close to the ground without stalks. This is a great time to harvest them for recipes. I often use the leaves as a substitute for fresh parsley.
Flowers: They come in tight groups of very tiny flowers. If you use a magnifying glass to look closely, you will see that it’s a composite flower, typical of the Asteraceae family. This means it’s made up of both ray flowers and disk flowers. The ray flowers are the “petals” you see and will typically number anywhere between 4 and 6. The disk flowers are yellow. Look closely and you will see that the flower is actually many flowers. Yarrow petals are slightly notched at the tip and look almost squarish. Flowers usually bloom sometime between June and August.
Leaves: The leaves are very delicate looking with finely divided, feathery leaves. They grow up the entire stem but will get smaller and more sparse as they move up.
Location: Yarrow is typically found in areas of disturbance such as roadsides and constructions sites, but especially those in full sun like prairies and open forest areas. It will grow in part shade, but it will not flower as well and won’t grow as large. Yarrow prefers dry areas, so it will flourish even in drier weather when many other plants are suffering. I planted two yarrow plants in one of my guilds and it really isn’t doing great; it grows leggy and thin with very few flowers. It suffers a little because it’s too moist, and the soil is too healthy (haha). Ultimately, I decided that I have so much wild yarrow on my property that I wouldn’t worry about growing it in my garden.