TANSY

GOLDEN BUTTONS

Tanacetum vulgare

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]  

Flowers:
month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept month8Oct

Pappus: pappusZpossible (if present, tiny)
pappus8oct pappus8nov

status
statusZnative
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ0 petalsZmany
(many)
type
typeZumbel
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8aromatic smell8camphor smell8rosemary
aromatic

5th Oct 2005, Jacksons Bridge, River Mersey. Photo: © RWD


13th Aug 2007, Chesterfield Canal. Photo: © RWD


13th Aug 2007, Chesterfield Canal. Photo: © RWD


3rd Sept 2004, Little Langdale. Photo: © RWD


30th July 2004, Portland Basin, Ashton Canal. Photo: © RWD


12th Aug 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Aintree. Photo: © RWD


12th Aug 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Aintree. Photo: © RWD


5th Oct 2005, Jacksons Bridge, River Mersey. Photo: © RWD


5th Oct 2005, Jacksons Bridge, River Mersey. Photo: © RWD


5th Oct 2005, Jacksons Bridge, River Mersey. Photo: © RWD


Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Used to be called: Chrysanthemum Vulgare.

Tansy spreads by underground stolons.

The leaves are bitter and spicy and once used to make Tansy (a custard pudding), but it may be poisonous if taken internally. Indeed, both Ragwort and Tansy contain Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are moderately poisonous. Ingesting excess Tansy can cause permanent liver damage, digestive disturbances, lack of coordination, weakness, staggering, and death. Cattle are only vulnerable when Tansy is present as an unwanted inclusion within the hay or when wilted, for otherwise they don't usually touch it. The toxins within are not destroyed on storage or drying. It can contaminate mill and honey. Gloves should be worn if up-rooting Tansy by hand, for the alkaloids present, including Tanacetin, are readily absorbed through the skin.

Tansy is a member of the Daisy & Dandelion family, but un-like most members, possesses no ray florets, only central disc florets. In America it spreads readily and is a controlled weed.

The stem leaves are very similar to those of Leptinella (Cotula squalida) but the flowers of Leptinella are in singles atop a stalk which is very much shorter than that of Tansy. Also, the flowers, although both are yellow and both are lacking ray-florets, are very much less compacted than those of Tansy.

Traditionally, Tansy was used for treating tapeworm, roundworm and threadworm and as a stimulant for migraine, loss of appetite and liver problems. Sprigs of Tansy were placed in the house to keep flies at bay. The flower heads yield commercial insecticides, (Pyrethrin I and Pyrethrin II) and were once used to treat lice.

Large consumption of Tansy can be fatal, due mainly to Thujone in the essential oil. Symptoms of poisoning include abdominal pains, serious gastroenteritis, convulsions, tachycardia, arrhythmia, liver and kidney damage, loss of consciousness and finally death.

Possessing natural insecticidal properties Tansy was sometimes planted (or allowed to grow) near or within crop plants on farmland in order to keep pests at bay without recourse to modern insecticides (which may not have been as effective in past times).

A yellow dye can be extracted from the flowers.

Tansy contains the allergenic Sesquiterpene Lactone, Arbusculin A, which may be an effective treatment for Lymphoid Leukaemia. Because of this toxic substance, Tansy can induce contact hypersensitivity. Senecionine is also present.

Thujone is another constituent of Tansy. Note the strained three-membered carbon ring of cyclopropane, the instability of which (cleavage of the ring) probably significantly contributes to the toxicity of Thujone. It has the odour of a similar but not identical compound called menthol, which is responsible for the aroma and taste of some Mints. Junipers, Mugwort, Wormwood (from which the alcoholic beverage absinthe is made) and common sage also contain some thujone. Thujone has only a minute presence in the absinthe. It is moderately toxic and acts on some neurotransmitter receptors within the brain and is thus a neurotoxin too. The toxicity of Tansy is mainly due to the presence of β-Thujone in the essential oil, amongst Camphor and other mono-terpenoids.

Senecionine (aka Aureine and Squalidine) is a pyrrolizidine alkaloid which is hepatotoxic, damaging the liver on ingestion, and found in Tansy and also in species of Senecio [in the Daisy Family] (which includes Ragworts such as Oxford Ragwort, Groundsels) and species of Crotalaria (a member of the Pea Family) which grows in the tropics. Senecionine has uses in the biological laboratory.

Tansy also contains camphene and Myrtenol, or oil of myrtle, a constituent of Bog Myrtle. These substances contribute to Tansy being an effective insect repellent and insecticide.

Camphene is an aromatic hydrocarbon and bicyclic monoterpene which has a faint smell reminiscent of camphor. Virtually insoluble in water it is present in turpentine oil, nutmeg, lemon, juniper berries, bergamot oil, cinnamon oil, camphor oil, citronella oil, ginger oil, neroli, cypress oil and Valerian. It is used in fragrances and somewhat strangely as a food additive for flavouring. Like camphor, it tends to sublime.

Tansy also contains sesquiterpene lactones such as Tanacetin, Germacrene D, and Tanacetol A.

Some books confuse Tanacetol with Thujone (shown above), equating the two, but as can be seen here, they are quite different. Tanacetol A...

Germacrene D is one of the essential oils that are typically accompanied by Cadinane and Muurolene sesquiterpenoids, which are similar in chemical structure to Germacrene but with variations; a consistent variation being the bond joining the two rings. Germacrenes are typically produced in a number of plant species specifically for their insecticidal and anti-microbial properties, which the plant uses in defence. Therefore it is somewhat counter-intuitive that they are also extant in playing a role as insect pheromones, attracting the very insects they are trying to poison; perhaps in an effort to kill as many as possible.

Tansy also produces sterols Sitosterol (β-)) and terpenoids (Amyrin (α-) and Amyrin (α-)).


  Tanacetum vulgare  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asteraceae  

Distribution
family8Daisy family8Dandelion  family8Asteraceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Tanacetum
Tanacetum

TANSY

GOLDEN BUTTONS

Tanacetum vulgare

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]  

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