Tanacetum vulgare Linnaeus
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
Tanacetum vulgare from the Asterales
an from the Asteraceae family is a
herbaceous flowering plant native to temperate Europe and Asia.
has a long history of medicinal use.
It was first introduced to North America
for use in folk remedies and as an ornamental plant.
It is often an invasive weed.
The plant belongs to the
According to most sources, tanacetum is derived from the Greek
that means immortal, in reference to the plant's medicinal qualities,
everlasting scent, and preservative uses.
The Romans knew it as tenacetum and this is recognizable in the
modern Spanish name tanaceto. In medieval Latin, circa A.D. 1250,
the plant was known as tanazetum (and many variations thereof) or
athanacetum, which was corrupted to tanésie in Old French.
This gave us tanaisie, as the French know it now, and, of course,
tansy in English, the commonest common name of the quite common plant
In Latin, vulgare means ordinary, common; and
vulgare is an epithet
frequently appearing in the names of weeds.
Some of the vernacular names of
Tanacetum vulgare are:
Tansy, Common Tansy, Garden Tansy, Bitter Button, Cow Bitter, Ginger Plant,
Parsley Fern, Scented Fern, Golden Button and Mugwort.
Some of the French vernacular names are:
Tanaisie, Tanaisie Commune, Barbotine, Herbe amère, Herbe aux vers,
Herbe de Saint Marc, Sent-bon and Tanacée.
Tanacetum vulgare has also been known as:
- Chrysanthemum tanacetum Vis.
- Chrysanthemum uliginosum Pers.
- Chrysanthemum vulgare (L.) Bernh.
- Chrysanthemum vulgare (L.) Bernh. subsp. boreale
(Fisch. ex DC.) Vorosch.
- Chrysanthemum vulgare (L.) Bernh. var. boreale
(Fisch. ex DC) Makino ex Makino & Nemoto
- Pyrethrum vulgare L. Boiss.
- Tanacetum boreale Fisch. ex DC.
- Tanacetum crispum (L.) Steud.
- Tanacetum officinarum Crantz
- Tanacetum vulgare L. var. crispum DC.
- Tanacetum vulgare L. forma crispum (L.) Fernald
- Tanacetum vulgare L. subsp. boreale
(Fisch. ex DC.) Á. & D. Löve
- Tanacetum vulgare L. var. boreale
(Fisch. ex DC.) Trautv. & C.A. Mey.
Mature Tanacetum vulgare plants are easily recognized by
the flat-topped clusters of small, button-like,
yellow flowers they bear in the summer. It is also recognized
by its strong odor when it is crushed.
Tanacetum vulgare resembles Matricaria matricarioides
which is an annual, glabrous,
pineapple-scented plant, but of lesser size,
and with rounded or conic flower heads, while those of Tanacetum vulgare
Tanacetum vulgare is a scented herb, emiting a strong odor when crushed,
with finely divided compound leaves
and yellow, buttonlike flowers.
It is a coarse perennial from stout rhizomes, often in dense colonies.
- Stout, somewhat reddish, erect, usually glabrous or slightly hairy.
- Around 50 to 150 cm (2 to 5 feet) tall.
- Branching near the top.
- Alternate, from 10 to 15 cm long
and nearly half as wide.
- Sessile, deep green and smooth.
- Pinnately lobed.
- Divided almost to the center into about seven pairs of segments or
lobes which are again divided
into smaller lobes having
thus giving the leaf a somewhat fernlike appearance.
- With an evidently winged rachis.
- Dotted with small pitted glands.
- With a spicy aroma.
- Produced in showy flat-topped terminal clusters
with 20 to 200 disk flowers per cluster.
- Roundish, buttonlike, golden yellow, about 1/2 inch wide.
- With all tubular flowers.
- Maturing to dark brown.
- With phyllaries broad,
with dark edges, in 3 overlapping series.
- Pollination occurs
through a variety of insects, flies, butterflies, moths and honeybees.
- Blooming from the end of July to the end of August in may area,
25 km north of Montréal.
- Seeds are yellowish-brown with short, five-toothed crowns.
- Seeds are flat, about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) long, 5-angled, tipped
with small scales.
Weedy in disturbed areas, cultivated, escaped and naturalized in roadsides,
waste places and meadows; landscape as cultivated herbaceous perennial.
Grows in full sun.
Tanacetum vulgare is found in all the USA States but for Texas,
Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and South Caralina.
It is also found in Europe and temperate Asia.
It is found in Québec and most of Canada.
The map, from FLora of North America, shows the Canadian provinces
and USA States where Tanacetum vulgare can be found.
The leaves and flowers are said to
be poisonous if consumed in large quantities.
since they contain alkaloids
that are toxic to both humans and livestock.
Cases of livestock poisoning are rare, though,
because Tanacetum vulgare is unpalatable to grazing animals.
The pungent, strong smell of the herbage usually
prevents animals from consuming this plant in quantity.
Human consumption of Tanacetum vulgare has been practiced for centuries
with few ill effects,
yet the toxic properties of the plants are cumulative
and long term consumption of large quantities has caused convulsions
and even death.
In addition, hand pulling of Tanacetum vulgare has been reported
to cause illness, suggesting toxins may be absorbed through unprotected skin.
This plant has been used as a medicinal herb.
Bitter tea made with the blossoms of Tanacetum vulgare
has been effectively used for centuries as an
Tanacetum vulgare can be used as an
meaning that it can end a pregnancy.
However, it is extremely risky to use in this manner.
In addition to medicinal applications,
Tanacetum vulgare has been used as an insect
repellent from the Middle Ages to modern times.
Research found oil distilled from the plants to effectively repel mosquitoes,
though not as well as commercial preparations containing diethytoluamide.
As a natural insect repellent, it was often planted next to kitchen doors
to keep ants out.
Some insects, notably the tansy beetle, have evolved resistance to
Tanacetum and live almost exclusively on it.
Tanacetum vulgare was also once used as a flavouring
for puddings and omelettes, a practice that is almost unknown now.
The plant's volatile oil is high in thujone,
a poison that can cause convulsions, vomiting and uterine bleeding.
Death is normally the result of respiratory arrest and organ degeneration.
The first historical records of Tanacetum vulgare cultivation
are from the ancient Greeks who used it for a variety of ailments.
It was grown in the garden of Charlemagne the Great in the eighth century
and in the herb gardens of Swiss Benedictine monks as a treatment
for intestinal worms, rheumatism, fevers and digestive problems.
In medieval times, Tanacetum vulgare in large doses was commonly used
to induce abortions.
Ironically, smaller doses were thought to prevent miscarriage
and enhance fertility.
Christians of the 15th century began adding Tanacetum vulgare
to their cooking at Lent to
commemorate the bitter herbs eaten by the Israelites at Passover.
Tanacetum vulgare is still used in some medicines and is
listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for colds and fever.
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