Achillea millefolium, or the common yarrow, is an ordinary looking plant on first glance. However, its leaves it holds incredible potential. I found it on the edge of the Ashley Schiff Preserve on the Stony Brook main campus on June 13th, 2018, within a small patch of what I suspected to be Common Cat-Ear flowers. It grows with a feathery fern-like appearance, and once in bloom, has small clusters of white or yellow flowers. Truthfully, it took several photos and attempts on the iNaturalist app to determine whether it was A. millefoilum or in fact a small fern! According to the USDA, the plant is very common throughout the North American continent, appearing in every state except for certain desert areas in the Southwest. The plant has even appeared as an introduced species as far as Hawaii, and can be found throughout the Eurasian continent as well. The plant is very popular for planting for its hardy, perennial (multi-year) growth and its ability to attract bees and butterflies, which are critical pollinator species.
A. millefoilum is especially popular for its use as an herbal treatment for a wide variety of ailments. According to Applequist and Moerman, (2011) treatments include “wounds, digestive problems, respiratory infections, and skin conditions, and secondarily, among other uses, for liver disease and as a mild sedative”. This species has yet to be assessed by the IUCN Red List, however has several variants, which include plants with red, pink, and gold flowers. Additionally, their study finds that the potential uses for yarrow can be extended beyond simple herbal remedies, argues that human trials using the plant should start to see the true scope of the plant’s properties. According to Ali et. al. (2017), many models support the rationale of using the plant as a treatment for many illnesses, and that “due to the noteworthy pharmacological activities, A. millefoilum will be a better option for new drug discovery”. Extraordinary potential for such an average looking plant! Without a second look from a careful eye, it can quickly become lost in the extensive ecosystem of the Ashley Schiff Preserve.