Scientific Name: Tanacetum vulgare
36-48 inches tall, width 6-10 inches
Flowers: tiny yellow disc flowers in clumps which look like tiny buttons. One plant may have up to 300 florets.
Leaves: Light green pinnately compound and appearing divided with narrow, toothed segments and a fern like appearance.
Scent: Similar scent to camphor with slight notes of rosemary.
General Information: Graceful perennial plant in the aster family. Tansy tolerates heat and provides color from mid-summer until fall. Grow tansy in the ground or in a container that provides good drainage and rich soil. Can be propagated by seed or division.
According to the University of Arkansas Extension Service, “Tansy has several medicinal properties that are currently recognized but most gardeners today consider it an excellent companion plant for use in warding off insects. It is said to ward off potato beetles if planted near potatoes, to keep cucumber beetles and blister beetles away from cucumbers and, according to an old time use, to ward off borers from attacking peach trees.”
In its article on the Colonial Kitchen Garden, the Nation Park Services describes interesting uses of tansy in the 18th century including: “treatment of round worms and as an aid to digestion. It was also used for embalming from ancient times until the late 18th century. It was said that one of the first presidents of Harvard College was buried wrapped with tansy in 1668. The body was exhumed in 1846, and found to be perfectly preserved. All parts of the herb have a bitter taste, but small quantities of leaves were used to flavor various dishes. Tansy cakes were eaten at Easter time to symbolize one of the Passover herbs. A clump of tansy was often hung in colonial kitchens to repel mosquitoes, flies and ants. In medieval England, it was strewn on the floors after feasts to ward off insects. Tansy is still used today in making the liqueur Chartreuse.”
Warning: contact with juice or sap can cause dermatitis. It is recommended by University of California – Davis that you wash the affected skin area with soap and water as soon as possible after contact. Tansy is considered a noxious weed in Colorado, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. According to the Washington State Noxious Control Board, “Common tansy is reported to be poisonous to livestock, though it is seldom grazed due to its strong odor.
North Carolina State University Extension: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/tanacetum-vulgare/
Noxious weed in some states: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=TAVU
Plant week–Tansy: http://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/tansy-5-24-13.aspx
Colonial Kitchen Garden: https://www.nps.gov/rowi/learn/historyculture/colonial-kitchen-garden.htm
Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants: https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/files/154528.pdf
Washington State Noxious Control Board: http://www.nwcb.wa.gov/detail.asp?weed=135