Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is one of my favorite flowers because it is tough and the deer don’t seem to like it. Its shallow roots make transplanting easy and it tolerates some neglect in the process. It is drought resistant and spreads by shallow rhizomes, so it fills my flower garden even when I forget to water it!
Yarrow is in the Composite Family, not the Parsley Family as some might guess, so please learn to identify it correctly before using it. To the untrained eye, some poisonous plants can be mistaken for yarrow.
With a magnifying glass you can see that the flowers in each flower head consist of a bunch of teenier flowers, which are, in fact, a conglomeration of the Composite Family’s signature ray and disk flowers.
Yarrow offers a wide array of medicinal properties and it’s helpful to keep some of them in mind no matter where you are. Yarrow’s most significant property is its blood-clotting ability. It has been used to staunch bleeding for thousands of years, earning it the name herbal militaris in ancient Greek times, and soldier’s woundwort during the Civil War. Its additional antiseptic and numbing properties help with just about any wound. You can use it on bee stings or yellow jacket bites or to stop nosebleeds. It’s aromatic fragrance acts as an insecticide and fumigant.
Yarrow also improves circulation of peripheral blood vessels so yarrow tea is helpful for certain types of headaches. It lowers blood pressure, breaks fevers, and helps reduce menstrual bleeding. It can cause miscarriages so pregnant women should avoid it, but tea taken after delivering your baby helps reduce bleeding.
Do your own yarrow research. You’ll be surprised at how much healing such a “common” plant can provide.
As the Rice Ridge fire pressed down upon us and I prepared to evacuate, my belongings felt like a burden. Protecting them was clearly not worth the loss of someone’s life. I couldn’t help but wish that our culture lived on the land differently.
When tribal people inhabited the West they co-existed with fires. Their homes were lightweight and portable so tribes could easily move their few possessions if needed. No one’s life was put at risk fighting fires.
Because fires cycled through frequently, they improved habitats by clearing out undergrowth and fertilizing the soil with ash rather than devastating them as the current high-intensity fires do. Many tribes intentionally set fires to increase browse for elk and deer, promote regrowth of quality basket-making materials such as beargrass and willows, and enhance productivity of essential foods such as huckleberries.
As European culture moved into the West, its stationary lifestyle redefined the meaning of fire. Permanent structures and denser populations meant fire brought a threat rather than a healthy cleansing, and the era of fire suppression began. It seemed like the right thing to do and we were good at it. By the 1960s we had successfully reduced the annual number of burned acres from 30 million to 5 million.
But after years of suppressing fires, we now understand forests have gotten too thick and fires burn too hot. Sadly, there is no easy way to thin our forests back down to less incendiary conditions. Fuel mitigation projects help, but not enough. Catastrophic fires will continue to threaten firefighters and towns, and scorch habitats.
We have lost two young men to Montana fires this season yet still the firefighters come. Their courage leaves me speechless. I, for one, wish our culture was not built around permanence. I wish our forests weren’t getting so ravaged. I wish we could bring those firefighters back to life.
I know I speak on behalf of all Seeley Lake residents in expressing my deepest regrets and appreciation to every firefighter here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.