We were pleased in recent weeks to note the return of our red yarrow, which we first planted last year. Yarrow is a spring plant, putting on new growth and flowering from April through June in Florida. After that, it tends to die back, but if left alone should return the following spring to draw butterflies to its nectar-laden blooms.
Yarrow is a plant with a long history, as its very descriptive botanical name implies - Achillea millefolium. Yarrow has long been noted for its ability to staunch the flow of blood, and Homer tells us that Achilles carried it onto the battle grounds at Troy to treat wounded soldiers. The Chinese consider it to be lucky; the Saxons wore it in amulets for protection, and medieval witches were said to use it in incantations.
My personal favorite legend about yarrow is the belief that you could determine your lover's devotion by poking a yarrow leaf up your nose and saying, "Yarroway, yarroway, bear a white blow: if my love loves me, my nose will bleed now". Since yarrow is known to irritate the nasal passages, it would often cause the person's nose to bleed. (Personally, I'll stick with daisies and "she loves me, she loves me not...")
Yarrow's medicinal properties have been well-documented, but that's not why we grow it in My Florida Backyard. We love it for its ability to draw butterflies, and to thrive in very poor soil. In fact, yarrow needs well-drained but otherwise poor soil to thrive - otherwise it's susceptible to mildew and root rot. While the white-flowered version is well-known, there are many colors available, including reds, pinks, and yellows. they love full sun and tolerate drought very well. It can be divided very few years as it spreads.
There's something really fascinating about growing a plant with a history dating back thousands of years. Once carried onto noisy battlefields, yarrow now blooms peacefully in my garden while butterflies drop by to drink the sweet nectar. Times have changed, but Achillea millefolium blooms on in My Florida Backyard.