2016 February 20

Here’s another flowering plant from my plant-photographing expedition on August 19, 2015. Specifically, the one in the foreground with the white blossoms[1]. I believe this is Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.

It looks kind of broadly similar to the Tansy that we have around in some profusion, with a similar umbrella-like arrangement of small flowers, tall stalks, and feathery leaves.

If we look more closely at the blossoms, though, we can see that aside from being white instead of yellow, they also differ from the Tansy blossoms in having small, round petals, and being composites of fewer flowerettes.

The individual flowerettes are somewhat elongated and trumpet-shaped, and fairly distinct from each other.

The yarrow is more-or-less native to North America, it is a temperate-zone plant that evidently became established all around the Northern Hemisphere back in the ice ages when there was a land bridge across the Bering Strait[2]. It is cold-tolerant, drought-tolerant, and not particularly toxic, so animals can eat it and it is a common component of grassland forage. The young leaves are supposedly tasty to humans if they are cooked like spinach. Also, it is supposed to promote blood clotting if it is pressed over bleeding wounds. The herbalists have all sorts of uses listed for it, but I’m never quite sure how many of those herbal remedies have actually been tested properly, and how many are just speculation or hearsay.

Years ago, I heard that yarrow stalks are also used traditionally for I Ching divination. Although, reading the description of how it is done, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well with, say, toothpicks, matchsticks, or bamboo skewers. I suppose that as a medicinal plant, the yarrow was probably thought to have some mystical properties that would help in divination, too.

[1] In retrospect, I should have taken along something like a sheet of neutral-colored posterboard to put behind the plants I was photographing, which would have greatly reduced the background clutter. The blurry plants in the background are mostly wild pea vines, although I see one blurry Black-Eyed Susan, and some of the other plants might be grass.

[2] An interesting little plate tectonic factoid: one would think that, since the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia is underwater, that it would be the boundary between the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. But, it turns out not to be. The actual boundary is way over in Siberia, at the Chersky mountain range! The Bering Strait is just a low spot, with no particular tectonic significance. The water is less than about 50 meters deep, which means that when the sea levels dropped almost 120 meters during the ice ages the Bering Strait area was all dry land. And the fact that the water is shallow and it is not actually an earthquake zone means that it would be possible to build a causeway and bridge across from Alaska to Siberia, at least if we ever decided that we wanted one badly enough. Not that we are likely to want one that badly, because there isn’t anything on either side to connect to. On the US side, we would have to construct at least 500 miles of road before it could connect to any other highway in Alaska. On the Russian side it’s even worse – they’d need 1200 miles of construction just to connect to the nearest dirt road, and more like 2000 miles to get to a paved highway or railroad.

One Response
  1. March 11, 2016

    Is not yarrow. Is white! How come you not know your corors?

    Sorry. I couldn’t help it. I’ll go away now.

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