- Name also: Sneezeweed Yarrow, Bastard Pellitory, Wild Pellitory, Fair-maid-of-France, Goose Tongue, White Tansy
- Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
(formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 30–60 cm (12–25 in.). Stem often branching from lower part, hairy–glabrous.
- Flower: Single flower-like 8–16 mm (0.32–0.64 in.) capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitula’s ray-florets (10–14) usually white, tongue-like, tip shallowly 3-toothed; disc florets dirty white, tubular, small (sometimes all flowers tongue-like). Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels. Involucral bracts in several rows, elliptic, with tomentum (woolly hair) and membranous margins. Capitula borne in a loose corymbose cluster.
- Leaves: Alternate, stalkless. Blade linear–linearly lanceolate, margin variably with secondary teeth, top often glabrous, shiny, bright–greyish green, underside sparsely haired with long and quite straight hairs, sometimes both sides glabrous.
- Fruit: Obovate, flattish, slightly curved, levelled tip, approx. 2 mm (0.08 in.) long achene.
- Habitat: Meadows, ditches, banks, fields, shores, wasteland. Also ornamental.
- Flowering time: July–September.
Sneezewort has spread or been brought to Finland quite late, sometime in the 17th century, and for a long time after that it was rare. It only began to become more common at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, however, when hay started to be cultivated. Its beautiful capitula made it a desirable plant in flower beds too and it was often taken as a gift when visiting, giving its efforts to spread an unprecedented boost. The roots and capitula were earlier used to make sneezing powder, probably more often as a practical joke rather than to help anyone’s breathing. It grows all over Finland now, apart from the wide expanse of wilderness in Lapland. It still grows mainly where humans have left their mark in drained swamps, the edges of hay-fields, beside roads and on waste ground. It can survive a long time on old fields that have been reclaimed by the forest but in that case it flowers rarely.
An ornamental form of sneezewort (f. multiplex) has been developed. Its capitula are spherically compound because all the flowers have changed to look like the ray-florets. It has earlier been more desirable than the wild form of sneezewort in Finnish gardens, but nowadays it is quite rare, even though it flowers beautifully and has adapted well to Finnish conditions. It still grows as a left-over from cultivation around graveyards and country houses. There is also a form that has been born in the wild.
Achillea salicifolia (sometimes known as silver spray yarrow) looks like sneezewort and can be found around places where it has been brought on Russian soldiers’ boots, especially on clayey shore-side meadows around the waters of Vanajavesi downstream from Hämeenlinna – it has never spread upstream. Although it looks like sneezewort, it is larger in size.