Imagine a daisy without the white petals, such that only the yellow center of disk flowers remains. Rayless composites aren’t all that common, but there are a few, and common tansy is one rayless composite that grows in our part of southwest Virginia.
Common tansy grows to about 3 feet in height and is densely covered with dark green, highly dissected leaves. The leaves are almost fern-like in appearance. At the top of the plant, numerous clusters of bright yellow flower heads positively GLOW in the sunshine.
This species of tansy is not native to North America. It was brought here from Europe for use in home gardens. The attractive blooms were used as cut flowers and the highly aromatic leaves had a variety of uses ranging from cooking herb to medicine to natural pesticide.
Wikipedia lists a variety of historic uses for the above-ground parts of Tanacetum vulgare, including:
- Mosquito repellent
- A face wash to purify the skin.
- An herb to prevent meat from spoiling
- Treating colds, and jaundice.
- Embalming fluid.
- Lining the inside of a coffin to prevent insects from getting inside.
- Making a burial wreath out of the plant and then placing it on the head of the deceased.
- Treating intestinal worms or other digestive ailments.
- A companion plant to deter insects in the garden.
- An herb for calming nerves, curing migranes, starting menstruation, and easing joint pain.
Other names for tansy include bitter buttons, golden buttons, and mugwort. Look for it growing along roadsides, July through September.
Tansy Illustration credit: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany