Foraging for Yarrow in Northwest Ontario


About Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a versatile and abundant wild plant found in many parts of the world, including Northwest Ontario. Its medicinal properties, nutrient content, and culinary uses make it an essential plant foragers to recognize and appreciate. This article will guide you through the benefits of yarrow, where to find it, and how to identify it, ensuring that you can make the most of this remarkable plant.

Primary UseMedicinal
Medicinal UseWound treatment, inflammation reduction, fever reduction, digestive relief, menstrual pain relief
Edible PartsLeaves, flowers
Nutritional ValueVitamins A, C, K, essential minerals, antioxidants
Identification FeaturesFeathery leaves, white or pale pink flowers in flat-topped clusters, erect stem
Where to LookMeadows, roadsides, grassy areas

Medicinal Uses

Yarrow has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries, particularly for its ability to:

  • Treat wounds: It has been known to stop bleeding and promote healing due to its astringent and antiseptic properties.
  • Soothe inflammation: Yarrow’s anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate skin irritations and provide relief from conditions such as eczema or insect bites.
  • Reduce fever: As a diaphoretic, yarrow can help induce sweating, thus lowering body temperature and reducing fever.
  • Relieve digestive issues: The plant has been used to treat gastrointestinal problems, such as indigestion, bloating, and stomach cramps.
  • Ease menstrual pain: Yarrow’s antispasmodic properties can help soothe menstrual cramps and reduce excessive menstrual bleeding.

Nutrient Value

Yarrow is not only valued for its medicinal properties but also for its nutritional content. The plant is a good source of:

  • Vitamins: Yarrow contains vitamins A, C, and K, which contribute to healthy skin, immune function, and blood clotting.
  • Minerals: The plant is rich in essential minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which play crucial roles in maintaining bone health, muscle function, and nerve signalling.
  • Antioxidants: Yarrow has a high antioxidant content, which can help protect your body against free radical damage and reduce inflammation.

Ideal Environment

In Northwest Ontario, yarrow typically grows in the following environments:

  • Meadows: These open areas are perfect for yarrow, providing plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil.
  • Roadsides: Yarrow often thrives along roadsides and in disturbed areas, taking advantage of the disturbed soil and ample sunlight.
  • Grassy areas: Look for yarrow in fields, parks, and other grassy areas that receive plenty of sunshine.

Identifying Yarrow

When foraging for yarrow, be sure to look for these distinctive features:

  • Leaves: Yarrow has feathery, fern-like leaves with a soft and slightly fuzzy texture. They are finely divided and grow in an alternate pattern along the stem.
  • Flowers: The plant produces small, white or pale pink flowers that form flat-topped clusters. These flowers typically bloom from June to September.
  • Stem: Yarrow’s stem is erect, slightly ribbed, and can grow up to 3 feet tall.

Foraging Tips

Keep these tips in mind when foraging for yarrow in Northwest Ontario:

  1. Timing: The best time to harvest yarrow is during the flowering period, from June to September. This is when the plant’s medicinal properties are at their peak.
  2. Sustainability: Practice sustainable foraging by only harvesting a small portion of the yarrow population in a given area, leaving enough for the plants to regenerate and continue providing for other foragers and wildlife.
  3. Use a guide: When first learning to identify yarrow, bring along a field guide or consult a knowledgeable forager to ensure correct identification.

Foraging rules

Never eat something without knowing what it is. Even if you have a good idea of what it is, check for reactions. First rub it on your skin, see if there is a reaction, rub it on your lips, see if there is a reaction. THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO MUSHROOMS!

Go on one of the many guided foraging walks, do your research, identify the plants/mushrooms/berries - ask the experts.

Even if a plant is edible, many have limitations on how much you should eat and/or special considerations regarding preparation.


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