Yarrow is a perennial herb that can spread both by seed and by means of creeping stems, known as stolons (2). The flowers, which are present from June to September (7) are visited by a huge range of insects (2). The whole plant has a strongly aromatic scent (2).
Yarrow was once held in high esteem as a medicinal plant, and has been used to staunch wounds and to ward off illness and bad luck (6). Conversely it was believed to be one of the Devil’s herbs, and was used in divination (4). It was also said to cause nosebleeds if a leaf was put into the nostril, and the plant was known as ‘nosebleed’ in some areas (4). In East Anglia, this property of the plant was employed in order to divine future love; a leaf was placed inside the nose and the following rhyme was recited: ‘Yarroway, plantsay, bear a white blow, if my love love me, my nose will bleed now’ (4). The leaves and flowers have a bitter, astringent and pungent taste; the alternative common name ‘old man’s pepper’ refers to this quality (7).