Yarrow – The Native with 1000 Leaves

achillea-whiteThe Plant with a Thousand Leaves                                                                                           Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) acquired its scientific species name because its foliage appears to consist of thousands of tiny leaves:  “mille”= thousand, and “folium” pertains to its foliage.                                                                                                                                      In reality, the picture at the right shows 7-8 leaves of yarrow, with a midrib running divided-leaves-1the length of each leaf.  The blade on each side of the midrib is made up of numerous smaller divisions.  This leaf adaptation serves the plant in at least two ways.  The small divisions in- crease the total surface area exposed to the sun and capable of carrying on photosynthesis.  It also allows the leaf to resist the heat of the sun, because smaller parts shed heat more easily.  Thus, yarrow is well equipped to thrive during hot, dry California summers.  (Most photos can be enlarged simply by clicking on them.)

Chiron instructing Achilles

Chiron instructing Achilles

Myth or Reality?                                                              Yarrow has an interesting history, altho its history is based in myth.  Achilles was a mytho- logical Greek warrior who fought during the mythological Trojan War.  Achilles had been a student of the mythological centaur Chiron, who excelled in many useful skills, including medicine.  Chiron introduced Achilles to the medicinal qualities of the yarrow plant, which Achilles subsequently used to treat his own wounds and the wounds of his fellow warriors.

         Yarrow grows in many countries, but the native California yarrow comes in two colors – white (Achillea millefolium californica), and a pink variety that is native to the Channel Islands near Ventura (Achillea millefolium rosea).  Another variety, frequently found in local nurseries and gardens, happens to be bright yellow, and is not strictly a native to California, but it appears to fit in ecologically, growing in the same environment and attracting the same pollinators as the native varieties.  Its varietal name is ‘Moonshine’, and is reported to be a cultivar formed by a cross between the native yarrow (A. millefolium) with Egyptian yarrow (A. aegyptiaca var. taygetea).  Its leaves are silvery green, as opposed to the dark green of the California native.

Moonshine

Island pink

Island pink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Achilles Was On To Something!                                                                                                  But the medicinal qualities of yarrow are not a myth.  One of its most pleasing characteristics is the aroma of the crushed leaves, which seems to be more noticeable on some plants or at different times of the year.  The aroma is due to several chemical compounds (achillein, chamazulene and numerous others), and aromatic plants have been used medicinally by all cultures in various parts of the world.  In 1960, traces of yarrow along with other medicinal herbs were found in the grave of a Neanderthal man in Iraq, dated about 60,000 years ago.                                                                                                                                                 However, one of its more common uses appears to be its ability to treat cuts and sores and to stanch bleeding from wounds.  Native Americans used yarrow for this purpose as well as for colds, respiratory problems, pain relief (it contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in Aspirin), headaches, toothache, fever reduction, an aid to sleep, and joint relief.                                                                                                                                        This newsletter does not attempt to recommend any part or decoction of yarrow for any medicinal application.  However, an Internet search will reveal medicinal uses of yarrow for virtually every ailment known to man (including prevention of baldness, which would have been useful to me many years ago), as well as a substitute for hops in the brewing of beer.  And, again without promoting any specific uses of yarrow, there appears to be extensive legitimate research into its curative qualities, such as from the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, and the German Commission E and German Standard License (“Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, A Handbook for Practice on a Scientific Basis”, edited by Max Wichtl, CRC Press).  Warning:  It should not be used during pregnancy. 

Yarrow in a residential setting

Yarrow in Your Garden                            Whatever variety of yarrow you might choose, yarrow is a good choice for a native garden.  It requires little care, aside from clipping off the old flowering stems and dividing the clumps every couple of years to reinvigorate them.  It seems indifferent to the amount of water it receives.  It propagates itself both by seeds and by underground stems; in other words, it spreads, but not uncontrollably.  It blooms mainly from spring into fall, but some individuals at the Granada Native Garden are in bloom even at this time, in February.  Yarrow has also been recommended for the stabilization of slopes, and as a lawn substitute because it tolerates light foot traffic and can be mowed.  However, I have trouble imagining it as a mow-able lawn because of its clumping nature, and I would love to receive clarification on this issue from our readers!

bee-on-yarrowbuckeye-on-yarrowFurther, yarrow attracts many beneficial insects, pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Its foliage provides winter forage for birds. (Thanks to Laura Hanson of The Watershed Nursery for letting us use her photo of the bee gathering pollen from the yarrow.)

Jack                                                                                                                                              St. Thomas Aquinas said that something reaches perfection when it is used for the purpose for which it is intended.                                                                                                    Jack is one person who helps the Granada Native Garden reach its perfection.  He is an almost daily visitor to the Garden, walking from his residence (almost a 2-mie round trip) to purchase his cup of coffee at a nearby donut shop and work on his Chronicle cross- word puzzle or catch up on his reading at one of the Garden tables.  Jack already knows many of the plants there by name, and is obviously one who enjoys being out of doors and values contact with nature in the relatively placid environment of the Garden!  May there be more like him in the future!jack-5Wildflower Update, Spring 2017                                                                                                We anticipated that the abundant Fall and Winter rains would produce a display of California native wildflowers rivaling last year’s exceptional show.  But it is not to be.   The bank of non-native weeds lurking in the ground, mainly oats and crane’s bill, saw their chance and effectively crowded out most of the native wildflowers, which germinate a bit later in the season.                                                                                                             wildflower-marker           In the process of “weeding out” the non-natives, we have tried to rescue some of the native wildflowers and give them a chance to greet visitors to the Garden.  This year, visitors will find markers to help you identify the wildflowers by name.  If you have children, you might challenge them to visit different parts of the Garden and find other examples of the same flower.                                                                            Meanwhile, we are working on a strategy that, hopefully, will limit the spread of the non-native weeds in future years.

 

Check out the native plant selection at ALDEN LANE NURSERY, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA 94550

Plants in 4-inch pots

Plants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants

1-gal and larger plants

For reliable certified arborist services, contact STUMPY’S TREE SERVICE, (925)518-1442, http://www.stumpystrees.com .

Stumpy'sGuided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available!                                                     Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this News- letter or in past issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Directions to the Granada Native Garden

GNG Neighborhood.jpegThe unofficial address of the Granada Native Garden is 801 Murrieta Blvd., Livermore, CA  94550                                                                                                        The map above and photos below can be enlarged for better viewing by clicking on them.

If you are a Livermore Resident . . .                                                                                 • The Garden is directly across Murrieta Blvd. from the Nob Hill-RiteAid shopping center. Parking is available in front of RiteAid.  The Garden is also directly accessible via the           Arroyo Mocho Bike Trail.                                                                                                       • See the map above for the safest place to cross Murrieta Blvd. and walk to the Garden, approximately 600 feet east of the Garden (toward Holmes Ave.).

Note:  Because of the boulevard center divider, there is no direct automobile access to the Garden for cars traveling from east to west on Murrieta Blvd.  And no on-site parking at the Garden itself … see below for parking information.

A View of the Woodland & Grassland Sections

A View of the Woodland & Grassland Sections

If traveling 580 eastbound to Livermore . . .                                                                     • Pass Airway Blvd. and exit at Isabel/Portola Ave.                                                               • Turn right onto Isabel.                                                                                                        • Continue past the big blue water treatment building; get in the left lane.                            • Turn left onto Jack London Blvd.  Follow it to its end at Murrieta Blvd.                               • Turn right onto Murrieta Blvd.  There will be 2 sets of traffic lights before you go under the railroad tracks at Stanley Ave.                                                                                           • Cross Stanley and get in the right lane, go 0.2 mile.                                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

A View of the Grassland-Chaparral Sections

A View of the Grassland-Chaparral Sections

If traveling 580 westbound to Livermore . . .                                                                     • Exit 580 at N. Livermore Avenue.  Turn left onto Livermore Avenue.                                   • Continue to Portola Avenue.  Turn right onto Portola Ave.                                                  • Continue to Murrieta Blvd.  Turn left onto Murrieta Blvd.  There will be 2 sets of traffic lights before you go under the railroad tracks just before Stanley Ave.                                    • Cross Stanley and get in the right lane, go 0.2 mile.                                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link  fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

If traveling on Stanley Avenue from Pleasanton . . .                                                        • Follow Stanley Ave. into Livermore to the ARCO station at Murrieta Blvd.                           • Turn right onto Murrieta, stay in the right lane and go 0.2 mile.                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

If traveling from San Jose/Santa Clara . . .
  • Take 680 north toward Pleasanton.                                                                                   • Take Exit 25 (Sunol Blvd.).                                                                                                 • Continue on Sunol Blvd. thru Pleasanton; Sunol Blvd. becomes Stanley Ave. in Pleasanton; continue on Stanley Ave. toward Livermore.                                                        • Follow Stanley Ave. into Livermore to the ARCO station at Murrieta Blvd.                           • Turn right onto Murrieta, stay in the right lane and go 0.2 mile.                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

NOTE:  Because of the boulevard center divider, there is no direct automobile access to the Garden for cars traveling from east to west on Murrieta Blvd.

           Check out the Granada Native Garden Newsletter by googling “Granada Native Garden Newsletter”.  New articles about California native plants appear monthly, bimonthly, or irregularly.  You can be informed by email whenever a new article appears by clicking the FOLLOW button at the lower right corner of your screen.  You can also contact the Garden personnel by emailing the staff at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .