Tanacetum vulgare var. crispum (Fernleaf Tansy)

I posted this photograph a couple of weeks ago, when we were puzzled as to what it was. It’s growing in a bed at Gorsemoor, on Dartmoor, having been acquired unnamed from the excellent little nursery at Illand near Launceston (no website, no catalogue, just an eclectic collection of plants).


We thought it must be either Tansy or Feverfew, and by now the answer has been found. It is a tansy in fact, but not the usual wild plant. It is Tanacetum vulgare var. crispum.

It has several English names, one of which is Parsley Fern, which is thoroughly misleading for Parsley Fern is actually that tiny Cryptogramma crispa, which is a true fern. Fern leaf Tansy or Curled Tansy seem the most reasonable. Crispum just means ‘curled’

I’ve always thought of tansy as a herb, though never found out what for, let alone experimented with it. Just as well perhaps, because its Latin name translates as Death Plant! Gerard described it as “pleasant in taste” though, and effective against gout. It is disliked by most insects, but favoured by bees and butterflies. Moreover it is so aromatic, that deer don’t eat it, which makes it a highly desirable plant in a Dartmoor garden.

2 thoughts on “Tanacetum vulgare var. crispum (Fernleaf Tansy)

  1. I think tansy is what’s known as a strewing herb… ie it would have been used on the floor along with straw etc and was probably intended to kill off a few fleas, be unattractive to vermin and also mask some of the general pongs of mediaeval life…..

    1. That’s interesting. I like the smell of it myself, but I’m usually in the minority as far as smell-liking is concerned. I like fox, and indeed skunk, which is the same but much much much stronger!

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