Tansy, Bitter-buttons – Flowers

(Tanacetum vulgar?) Thistle family

Flower-heads—Small, round, of tubular florets only, packed within a depressed involucre, and borne in flat-topped corymbs. Stem: 1 1/2 to 3 ft. tall, leafy. Leaves : Deeply and pinnately cleft into narrow, toothed divisions; strong scented. Preferred Habitat—Roadsides ; commonly escaped from gardens.

Flowering Season—July—September.

Distribution—Nova Scotia, westward to Minnesota, south to Missouri and North Carolina. Naturalized from Europe.

” In the spring time, are made with the leaves hereof newly sprung up, and with eggs, cakes or Tansies which be pleasant in taste and goode for the Stomache,” wrote quaint old Gerarde. That these were popular dainties in the seventeenth century we further know through Pepys, who made a ” pretty dinner ” for some guests, to wit: “A brace of stewed carps, six roasted chick-ens, and a jowl of salmon, hot, for the first course; a tansy, and two neat’s tongues, and cheese, the second.” Cole’s ” Art of Simpling,” published in 1656, assures maidens that tansy leaves laid to soak in buttermilk for nine days ” maketh the complexion very fair.” Tansy tea, in short, cured every ill that flesh is heir to, ac-cording to the simple faith of mediaeval herbalists—a faith surviving in some old women even to this day. The name is said to be a corruption of athanasia, derived from two Greek words meaning immortality. When some monks in reading Lucian came across the passage where Jove, speaking of Ganymede to Mercury, says, ” Take him hence, and when he has tasted immortality let him return to us,” their literal minds inferred that this plant must have been what Ganymede tasted, hence they named it athanasia. So great credence having been given to its medicinal powers in Europe, it is not strange the colonists felt they could not live in the New World without tansy. Strong-scented pungent tufts topped with bright yellow buttons—runaways from old gardens—are a conspicuous feature along many a roadside leading to colonial homesteads.