Common Tansy

Scientific Name: Tanacetum vulgare
Family Name: Asteraceae

Flower: ½ in. (1.5 cm.) wide yellow button flower. Sometimes the flower has a depressed center with a raised outer edge of flower button.

Leaf: 4 – 8 in. (10 – 20 cm.) long, fernlike leaves that are toothed.

Plant: 2 – 3 ft. (60 – 90 cm.) tall, with green stems. Common Tansy overwinters as a basal rosette.

Identifying Characteristics: The button like yellow flowers that resemble the center of a daisy with the petals missing, easily identifies Common Tansy from other plants. Tansy also has a pungent odor.

Location: We found Common Tansy growing in Rock Meadow in Park Belmont, Massachusetts.

History and Comments: Common Tansy is native to Europe, and was brought to the United States as an ornamental flower and for medicinal purposes, but it escaped cultivation. It prefers disturbed places, particularly those with access to water. In Early Modern Europe, herbalists used Common Tansy oil to induce miscarriages. However, the tanacetum, the oil in the stem and leaves, can also be fatal to both humans and animals. In Medieval times, people ate young Common Tansy leaves during Lent to remind them of the bitter herbs that the Jews ate on Passover.

    Unless otherwise specified, all text, photographs, and drawings are Copyright (c) by Shu-Yee Chen and Deborah Hamer 2003. No part of this page may be reproduced without prior written consent of the authors.