Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 26 comments

Click for greater clarity.

In the 13 years that I’ve been photographing native plants I’ve generally avoided yarrow, Achillea millefolium, because there’s uncertainty about the extent to which it’s native in North America. Shinners and Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas says this: “Cronquist (1980) indicated that it is a highly variable polyploid complex with both native and introduced forms not yet satisfactorily sorted into infraspecific taxa.”

So this year I won’t be such a straight arrow
But will live a little and photograph yarrow.

Today’s picture comes from the March 2 session in north-central Austin that has already brought you a photograph of a blossoming redbud tree.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 9, 2012 at 5:38 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Nice photo, and it is definitly native here in Norway, I believe.. 😉


    March 9, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    • Thanks for letting us know that you have yarrow in Norway. I’ll be surprised if it’s already flowering up there in early March the way it is here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2012 at 6:28 AM

  2. I love Yarrow in the herb garden, and that is the only place I have never seen it… in the wild. I never stopped to look at this closely before. I tend to see it as a whole and not the composite that it really is. ~ Lynda
    PS: Steve, after the first sentence in the first paragraph you lost me in the technical bits. LOL! That’s never happened before! Or maybe I just need that second cup’a. 😉


    March 9, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    • Just took another look at the photo and have a question. Is this flower another case where the petals around the center are not really a part of the flower but modified leaves? I am seeing lovely little cupped floral forms gathered in the center of each ray of petals. Tanks! ~ L


      March 9, 2012 at 8:10 AM

      • Yarrow is in the Asteraceae or composite family, so each “flower”—or better a flower head—is made up of two sets of small individual flowers. In the center of the flower head of this species are the tiny cream-colored disk flowers, and surrounding them are the white ray flowers. What appears as a “petal” is the external part of one ray flower.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 9, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    • I’m not in the know when it comes to that amount of technical detail either; I just wanted to show that botanists themselves haven’t figured out the intricacies of this species. I don’t think a second cup’a would help me or you here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2012 at 9:08 AM

  3. Beautiful – Have a Great Weekend:)


    March 9, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    • Thanks, and happy adventuring to you. Here in Austin we’ve retrogressed to the winter we didn’t have: temperatures only in the 40s, rain, wind. But the water will be great for the wildflowers that are already coming out in larger numbers now, not just as stray plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2012 at 10:53 AM

  4. Nice photo!


    March 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

  5. so cute.

    emilie lazo

    March 9, 2012 at 6:57 PM

  6. What a pretty plant! It reminded me of one of my favorite people, Peter Yarrow, which made me wonder if yarrow was important enough in England or elsewhere for people to take its name. Apparently it is. The Wiki lists so many medicinal uses for yarrow my head was swimming – and I could use the plant to take care of that, too.

    Not only that, it’s drought tolerant – though we’ll hope that’s not so important this year!


    March 9, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    • You raise a good question: is the family name Yarrow the same as the name of the plant? You make a case for the affirmative in pointing out that yarrow has been put to many medicinal uses in Europe, so an English family that grew the plant or used it could have come to be known by its name. And other plants serve as people’s names, like Rose, which can be a personal as well as a family name.

      As for drought tolerance, it’s been raining on and off for two days in Austin, with more likely Saturday and Sunday. But then again, we know all too well what summers are like here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2012 at 8:16 PM

  7. I like Yarrow. We have two variations here and I prefer the alpine variety apicola. I know it has been here for a long time and lives at the higher elevations. I’ve seen it high up in the mountains and far from any roads: it seems to have been accepted into the wild country society of wildflowers. I’ve read that the Secwepemc people of British Columbia placed its leaves on fires to discourage mosquitoes and other native peoples used it for a variety of purposes.


    March 9, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    • Alpine we don’t have at Austin’s low elevation, but I’m glad you get to enjoy it. What you say about the native use as a mosquito discourager interests me because those insects love me too well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2012 at 10:39 PM

  8. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) yields a wonderful essential oil, like German chamomile it is very healing and soothing, though little known. Thanks for giving yarrow a day in the sunshine here!

    Emma Sarah Tennant

    March 10, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    • I’m happy to give yarrow its day in the sun here, even though it’s cold and rainy in Austin this morning. Does the essential oil retain the characteristic scent of the plant?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2012 at 7:20 AM

      • The essential oil is very pungent – best to pour a drop on tissue paper and waft away from your nose! Like most oils, it’s better diluted in a blend such as with rosemary and lemongrass to balance and lessen yarrow’s strong aroma!

        Emma Sarah Tennant

        March 11, 2012 at 6:43 PM

      • So it sounds like the essential oil concentrates the aroma that I detect from the plant.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 11, 2012 at 7:10 PM

  9. Very well captured Steve…I sometimes have difficulty getting everything in focus when the flowers are on slightly different planes and still keep the background out of focus. Love reading all the comments too…it is very educational.


    March 10, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    • You’re not alone, David, when it comes to getting everything in focus if parts of the subject aren’t all in the same plane. Sometimes we manage it and sometimes we don’t.

      I’ll agree that the comments are interesting and educational; the give-and-take is one advantage of a blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2012 at 3:35 PM

  10. […] Sonja Hartmann at the park’s plant nursery identified the photogenic seed heads as Calamagrostis rubescens, known as pinegrass. Above the center of the picture’s lower border are the similarly colored but differently structured seed head remains of yarrow, Achillea millefolium. […]

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