Common Name: Common Tansy (includes all varieties/cultivars)
Latin Name: Tanacetum vulgare L. formerly known as Chrysanthemum vulgare
Reviewer: Monika Chandler
Affiliation/Organization: Minnesota Department of Agriculture
File #: MDARA00031COTAN_2_24_2014
Review Entity | Outcome
Native to temperate Europe and Asia, common tansy began its history in North America as a useful species. Colonists deliberately imported it from Europe for medicinal, culinary, and insect repellent purposes. Tansy was used to treat a wide range of medical conditions such as worms, epilepsy, and gout (Short, 1746; Woodville, 1792; and Millspaugh, 1894) although overdoses were very serious and sometimes resulted in convulsions and death (Millspaugh, 1894). Illegal use of tansy as an abortifacient continued until the nineteenth century (Weber, 2003). Culinary uses included tansy cheese (Morrell, 1901) and as a flavoring of puddings, omelets, cakes, and tarts (Haughton, 1978), and Puritan Easter cakes (Peattie, 1936). Tansy leaves were rubbed on meat to prevent decay and repel flies (Haughton, 1978). Tansy was widely planted for its beneficial properties, but it escaped cultivation and became a problem.
By 1840, tansy was naturalized in many areas of Massachusetts (Commissioners on the Zoological and Botanical Survey of the State, date unknown) and was widely distributed in other areas of New England by 1869 (Maine Board of Agriculture, 1870). Pammel (1910) suggested that early Mormon settlers may have introduced tansy to Utah. Tansy is now recorded in every state except Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas (USDA, NRCS 2013).
Tansy is a perennial plant with yellow, button-shaped flowerheads and leaves that are finely divided and resemble fern leaves. It grows to a height of 3-6 feet and often forms dense clumps. A study in Montana found that tansy plants can live up to ten years (Jacobs, 2008).
Brown, A., C. Edwards, T. Hartman, J. Marshall, R. Smith, M. Davey, J. Power and K. Lowe. 1999. Sexual hybrids of Tanacetum: biochemical, cytological and pharmacological characterization. Journal of Experimental Botany 50(33): 435-444.
Commissioners on the Zoological and Botanical Survey of the State. Reports on the herbaceous plants and on the quadrupeds of Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA. 1840.
Haughton, C.S. 1978. Tansy, pp. 370-374. Green Immigrants. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, NY.
Herrick, S. 2006. “Mapping the Extent of Invasive Plant Species on Wisconsin State Forest Land.” North Central Weed Science, Milwaukee, WI.
Hilty, J. 2010. Common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare crispum), [Online]. In: Illinois wildflowers--weedy wildflowers. John Hilty (Producer). 20 March 2010.
Jacobs, J. 2008. Ecology and management of common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.). Invasive Species Technical Note MT-18. Bozeman, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Montana State Office 12p.
Jogesh, T., D. Carpenter, and N. Cappuccino. 2008. Herbivory on invasive exotic plants and their non-invasive relatives. Biological Invasions 10:797-804.
Knight, A.P. and R.G. Walter. 2004. Plants associated with congenital defects and reproductive failure. A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America, A.P. Knight and R.G. Walter (Eds.) International Veterinary Information Service. Itahaca, New York, USA.
Maine Board of Agriculture. Fourteenth Annual Report of the Maine Board of Agriculture for the Year 1869. Augusta, ME. 1870.
Millspaugh, C.F. 1892. Tanacetum, pp. 86-1 to 86-5. Medicinal plants: an illustrated and descriptive guide to plants indigenous to and naturalized in the United States. John C. Yorston and Co., Philadelphia, PA.
Morrell, J. 1901. Some Maine plants and their uses, “wise and otherwise”. Rhodora 3: 129-132.
Pålosson, K., T. Jaenson, P. Beckström and A.K. Borg-Karlson. 2008. Tick repellent substances in the essential oil of Tanacetum vulgare. Journal of Medical Entomology 45(1): 88-93.
Pammel, L.H. 1910. Rocky Mountain rambles. The Plant World 13(3): 181-190.
Panasiuk, O. 1983. Response of Colorado potato beetles, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say) to volatile components of tansy, Tanacetum vulgare. Journal of Chemical Ecology 10: 1325-1333.
Peattie, D.C. 1936. Old-Fashioned Garden Flowers. Botany Leaflet 19. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL.
Royer, F. and R. Dickinson. 1999. Common tansy, pp. 58-59. Weeds of the Northern U.S. and Canada. The University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, AB and Lone Pine Publishing, Renton, WA.
Short, T. 1746. Tansy (Tanacetum), pp. 284-285. Medicina Britannica: or a treatise on such physical plants, as are generally to be found in the fields or gardens in Great Britian: Containing a particular account of their nature, virtues and uses. B. Franklin and D. Hall, Third edition, Philadelphia, PA. First edition, London, England, 1745.
USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. 11 August 2013. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Weber, A.S. 2003. Women’s early modern medical almanacs in historical context. English Literary Renaissance 33(3): 358-402.
White, D.J. 1997. Tanacetum vulgare L.: Weed potential, biology, responses to herbivory, and prospects for classical biological control in Alberta. M.Sc., Department of Entomology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
Wolf, V., A. Gassmann, B. Classen, A. Smith, C. Müller. 2012. Genetic and chemical variation of Tanacetum vulgare in plants of native and invasive origin. Biological Control 61(3): 240-245.
Woodville, W. 1792. Tanacetum vulgare, pp. 314-316. Medical Botany, Volume II. Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edinburgh, London, England.