A spray of yellow petals bursting forth from a strong stem — many of us recognize the yarrow, even if we don’t know its name. Yarrow, otherwise known as Achillea millefolium, is a prolific flowering plant, thriving in all kinds of conditions.
Yarrow can often be spotted in meadows and forests, but also in overgrown areas where you might not expect flowers to bloom.
The yarrow flower is also a plant with a rich tradition. Used to symbolize healing and love, the yarrow has found itself on both the battlefield and in the bedroom.
Nowadays, yarrow is still used in medicine thanks to its fantastic healing properties. And the beauty of the yarrow gives it a continued romantic significance.
Commonly found in gardens and kitchens, the yarrow plays an important role today. We’ve put together this guide so you can learn more about the historical symbolism and significance of the yarrow. It’s easy to overlook the yarrow, until you learn more about how important this flower can be.
What Does The Yarrow Flower Mean?
The yarrow flower grows in many places across the world, and was often transported with travelers for its medicinal uses. The yarrow flower means healing and love.
Yarrow has had an important role in many cultures throughout history, mostly as a plant used for healing. Yarrow would even be taken on the battlefield in some instances, which is how it got its scientific name (and many other nicknames). This has given yarrow the meaning of healing.
With pretty and delicate flowers, the yarrow has also come to mean love. It’s associated with both young love and romantic love, and can be given as a romantic gift.
In China, the yarrow flower is associated with good luck. It’s frequently used in I Ching divination.
Etymological Meaning Of The Yarrow Flower
The yarrow flower is correctly known as the Achillea millefolium. The etymological meaning of this dates back to antiquity.
Even to the Ancient Greeks, the use of yarrow to staunch the flow of blood was well known. Chiron was a wise centaur, respected for his knowledge of medicine. Chiron acted as a teacher to many heroes of Greek legends, including Achilles.
The centaur taught Achilles the use of yarrow to treat wounds, and Achilles carried the flower into battle with him. From this, the plant gets the name Achillea.
Millefolium refers to the small and delicate leaves that characterize the yarrow, and look like they can be divided into thousands.
The name yarrow itself comes from the Saxon name gearwe. Gearwe was also thought to mean “entirely”, and “certainly”.
Symbolism Of The Yarrow Flower
The symbolism of the yarrow is beautiful and poignantly related to its history as a plant used on the battlefield. The yarrow is typically used to symbolize healing and health. An arrangement of yarrow can be given as a “get well soon” gesture.
The yarrow hasn’t just been healing for people — it can be used to support other plants by attracting pollinators. Images of the yarrow flowers are sometimes used by herbalists, and makers of traditional medicine.
Because of the battlefield connotations, yarrow can also be used as a symbol for courage in battle.
Love is another meaning of the yarrow flower. Depending on the color of the flower, it can be used to symbolize different kinds of love. Young love, and romantic love, are common meanings.
A joyful plant that grows in abundance, the symbolism of the yarrow is positive and cheerful.
The yarrow is an important plant in Chinese culture. In China, the yarrow can be used as a symbol of good luck.
Yarrow Flower Color Meanings
The small flowers of the yarrow can bloom in a wide range of coloring, although you’re most likely to see it in yellow or white. Yarrow flowers range from delicate pastels to bold blooms, with white, yellow, red, and pink being common colors.
The color of the yarrow can play a role in how we interpret the symbolism of the flower.
White is a common color of yarrow, and a field covered in white yarrow can be a beautiful sight. White yarrow symbolizes purity and innocence, as well as hope and renewal. White yarrow can be gifted as a sign of friendship, or at the start of a relationship.
Cheerful yellow yarrow has a distinctly sunny appeal, and typically symbolizes friendship, joy, and celebration.
Red yarrow stands for desire, and a passionate love. It can also symbolize courage. Giving an arrangement of red yarrow can be a declaration of deep feeling. They also make fantastic anniversary gifts.
The pink yarrow is youthful and joyful. Pink yarrow symbolizes love, and sensitivity. Pink yarrow comes in an impressive array of colors, including pastel and magenta. How deep the pink is can indicate a different symbolism.
A pale pink is closer to the innocent love of white yarrow. A deep pink relates to the passionate love of red yarrow.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Yarrow Flower
Yarrow is an incredible flower, which is why it has such a prolific history. Much of that relates to the botanical characteristics of the yarrow.
Known as a healing plant, yarrow has been used to ease the healing of wounds for centuries. Yarrow can be mixed into a poultice and used to treat inflammation. The delicate leaves and petals can be applied directly to the wound, where they ease aches and pains while helping stop the flow of blood.
The astringent aniseed taste of the yarrow has led to its use in both medicine and food. A distinctive flavoring, the yarrow can heal wounds and alleviate pains.
The deep roots of the yarrow has led it to be a drought resistant plant. This is part of the reason why it’s so widespread, and so widely used. And with its beautiful smell and coloring, the yarrow attracts plenty of pollinators. Because of this, it’s a companion plant.
The thick stalk of the yarrow is another feature that’s contributed highly to its use. Because the stalk is so firm, it’s used to create the lines and readings of I Ching divination.
Special Occasions For The Yarrow Flowers
The blooms of the yarrow are certainly pretty, but the yarrow is a flower with an understated beauty. It’s rarely the central focus of a big bouquet, but is instead typically used as a filler flower. Yarrow is often associated with wildflowers, which makes it a great addition to an informal bouquet.
A good time to give yarrow is as an expression of young love. A small and simple bouquet expresses a depth of feeling, but isn’t an overwhelming expression of devotion. Try adding yarrow to roses and tulips, if you want an arrangement for a romantic anniversary.
For someone struggling with ill health, or recovering from an illness, yarrow makes a lovely gift. The meaning of healing and love combine for a heartfelt gesture.
Yarrow Flower Cultural Significance
The cultural impact of yarrow is surprising for such a delicate plant.
For the Ancient Greeks, yarrow was a symbol of the battlefield. Yarrow was carried by Achilles in the battle of Troy, and used to heal wounds by injured soldiers. This cultural significance was echoed in many parts of the world. Even in the US Civil War, yarrow was used to treat injuries.
The Native Americans also used yarrow for healing. The Navajo, Miwok, and Plains Indigenous people all used yarrow in medicinal ways.
The British Isles gave the yarrow a slightly different cultural significance. In Britain, the yarrow was a symbol of love. Yarrow would be plucked and placed under the pillow, and in the morning, your true love would be revealed. Often, a poem or song would be recited before you placed the yarrow in your bed.
Yarrow can cause nosebleeds, and this trait was sometimes used to find a soulmate. In Suffolk, yarrow would be placed up the nose. If your nose began to bleed, it meant your sweetheart loved you. If your nose stayed dry, there was no love to be found.
In China, the yarrow plant is considered to be a symbol of good luck. I Ching Divination uses lines of hexagrams to derive wisdom and predict human fate. I Ching divination can be done using either three coins, or fifty sticks.
These sticks are traditionally made of dried yarrow stalks. The stalks should be either collected from a holy place, or a variety that grows close to the diviner. These sticks are carefully stored when not in use.
Yarrow Flower Facts
Yarrow originated in the Northern Hemisphere, and was commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Due to its many uses, particularly on the battlefield, yarrow was spread across the globe.
Yarrow is now found in many parts of the world. It’s a hardy plant, and can survive anywhere from the coast to the desert. It does best in forests and meadows.
Yarrow blooms between May and June, and they give off a pleasant floral scent which can be quite strong. Hoverflies and ladybugs are attracted to the yarrow, making them a fantastic pollinator.
In medieval Europe, yarrow was used for brewing beer. Gruit was a herbal mixture typically made from yarrow, ivy, heather, mugwort, horehound, and sweet gale. Other herbs would be added to alter the flavor. Gruit would be added to brewed beer for flavoring.
Although yarrow has often been eaten and brewed, not everyone enjoys eating the flower. If cows eat yarrow, it turns their milk bitter.
A symbol of love in Britain, yarrow would often be placed under the pillow to reveal a true love. But one slightly more unusual method was putting yarrow leaves up a nostril. If you got a nosebleed, then your love was returned.
Yarrow Flower Uses
The yarrow is an incredibly useful flower, and is often grown as a companion plant. It attracts insects such as wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies, while keeping pests away.
Yarrow can also be eaten. With a slight taste of aniseed, yarrow can be brewed into a tea, eaten in salads, or used as a cooking herb. Once used in the brewing of beer, yarrow is still used to create some liquors as well as bitters.
Although not a common use now, the yarrow plant was once used to staunch the blood flow from wounds. Yarrow has several different names relating to this original use, such as the Roman Herba militaris (military herb), and the Irish lus na fola (blood plant).
Thanks to its astringent properties, yarrow has also been used in traditional and herbal medicine. Yarrow has been used to treat various aches such as toothache, headaches, and sore throats.
An application of yarrow has also been shown to speed up the healing of wounds, treat digestive issues, and potentially even alleviate anxiety. For centuries yarrow has been a significant medicinal plant, and it’s still important today.
What Is The Symbolism Of A Yarrow Flower Tattoo?
The delicate flowers of the yarrow can be used to create an intricately detailed tattoo.
The yarrow tattoo can be used to symbolize love and healing. Those who have struggled with an illness may choose a yarrow tattoo as a symbol of their strength, and a reminder of what they faced. The yarrow is a cheerful plant, and a yarrow tattoo can symbolize overcoming illness.
Yarrow is also a symbol of love. A yarrow tattoo can symbolize a romantic relationship, but also a friendship. The different colors of the yarrow stand for various types of love. A white yarrow tattoo can symbolize love for a child. A red yarrow tattoo can symbolize love for a partner.
Because of their impressive range, the yarrow is often seen as a wildflower. They can typically be found growing in abundance in natural areas. A yarrow tattoo can be a symbol of love for the natural world.
The twin meanings of healing and love make the yarrow a plant with a special significance. Found in many parts of the world, the prolific yarrow is joyful, and a cheerful plant to come across. When you see the yarrow, you want to smile.
Although sometimes seem as simple, the symbolism of the yarrow, as well as it’s many uses, make this a truly lovely flower.
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