Tanacetum vulgare Linnaeus

Notes The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

jul_30_01.gthmb can't be loaded. Tanacetum vulgare from the Asterales order an from the Asteraceae family is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant native to temperate Europe and Asia. This species 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 Asteraceae family.


According to most sources, tanacetum is derived from the Greek αθανατοσ 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 Tanacetum vulgare.

In Latin, vulgare means ordinary, common; and vulgare is an epithet frequently appearing in the names of weeds.

Common names

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.


draw.jpg can't be loaded. Tanacetum vulgare has also been known as:


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 are flat.


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.


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Flower heads



Weedy in disturbed areas, cultivated, escaped and naturalized in roadsides, waste places and meadows; landscape as cultivated herbaceous perennial. Grows in full sun.


map_na.jpg can't be loaded. 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 anthelmintic (vermifuge). Tanacetum vulgare can be used as an abortifacient, 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.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.

The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:

and if there is no letter it's obviously the Minolta.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, usually of dimension one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.


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oct_30_01s.mthmb cannot be loaded. The leaves were scanned at 300 dpi, and the dimensions of the resulting picture divided by 2 (area divided by 4); this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.

Flower heads

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