Common Tansy, Little Buttons of Gold

by Cynthia

Tansy in bloom

All around where I live Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) grows like a weed and is in full bloom at the moment. The cheery yellow buttons that are its flowers can easily be spotted from quite a distance away.

Close-up of tansy flowers

Tansy has a rather interesting history as an herb and its uses date back for centuries. At one point in time it was used medicinally as a bitter herb and a way of ridding the body of parasites. These practices are no longer used as the herb in recent times has been found to be too potent for consumption.

In the Middle Ages, Tansy was quite popular as a strewing herb. It was dried and sprinkled about as it was believed to repel pests such as ants and flies. In many a home, one would find bouquets of Tansy hanging to dry. The leaves were also rubbed on meat in attempts to preserve it longer.

Tansy hanging to dry in the home

In the modern day herb garden Tansy is a welcome- if not somewhat invasive- pretty flower to grow with lacey, fern-like foliage. In bloom, Tansy attracts beneficial insects like no other plant seems to be able to. The flat and tiny blooms appear to be irresistible to our garden allies.

Tansy in bloom being visited by a bumblebee

Today Tansy is mostly used for its ornamental purposes both in and out of the garden. Dried, the flowers are excellent in arrangements. One could also place the dried leaves in sachets to be used as an insect repellent. If it grows a bit out of hand, as it does spread by underground rhizomes, it can be pulled and added to the compost head for its potassium content.

My main interest in Tansy is for a completely different reason than the ones stated above. I grow it not only for its historicalness but also for the fact that it makes an excellent dye for wool. I have used Tansy in my dye baths multiply times and have yet to be disappointed. I have been able to yield gorgeous shades of green and yellow from this one simple herb. I recently gathered a large amount for dyeing and was able to produce the results shown in the photos below.

Yarn that has been naturally hand-dyed with Tansy flowers

Yarn that has been naturally hand-dyed with Tansy flowers

I love herbs that have history behind them and Tansy is no exception. To some, it might be considered too weed-like for their garden but to me it is one herb I would never leave out. After all, if it gets too out of hand I just toss it in the dye pot!

*EDITED:   There appears to be some confusion over the Tansy I am referring to in this post. Please do not mistake the Common Tansy I write about, Tanacetum vulgare, for the dangerous and harmful Tansy Ragwort or Senecio jacobaeaBelow I have supplied a few links to help clear up some of this confusion.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: