Tanacetum vulgare (Common Tansy)

Plant Info
Also known as: Golden-buttons
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
  • Noxious Weed
  • Prohibited or Restricted species
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil, fields, ditches, roadsides
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:1 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] 20 to 200 flowers in flat clusters up to 4 inches across at the top of the plant and arising from the upper leaf axils. Individual flowers look like golden yellow buttons, about ¼ inch across. There are no petals (ray flowers), only tiny center disc flowers.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed

[photo of leaves] Leaves are feathery or fern-like, up to 8 inches long, compound in 4 to 10 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are up to 1½ inch long, hairless, stalkless, with sharply toothed lobes and dotted glands. There is a pungent odor when the leaves are crushed. Attachment is alternate. Stems are ridged, hairless or sparsely hairy, and tinged red.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Flower heads turn to dark brown seed heads in late summer.


Common Tansy is a good example of a cultivated, non-native plant that escapes into the wild and goes unnoticed until one day, BOOM, it's everywhere and it's too late to do anything about it. The first collection record in Minnesota was in 1875. On our county distribution map, you could probably draw a solid line all along the north shore of Lake Superior from south of Duluth past Grand Marais and you wouldn't be far from the mark. You can drive along almost any county road in Lake or St. Louis county and spot large masses of it. It has spread far and wide beyond the Arrowhead and is quickly making its way west and south. Tansy is on Minnesota's "control" noxious weed list, which means efforts are supposed to be made to control its spread, but there aren't really any programs in place to make that happen, let alone eradicate it. A bio control is being investigated but it will be years of research and testing before a suitable one is found (assuming one is found at all), and we can only imagine how much worse the problem will be by then. Besides, bio controls of other species have not resulted in eradication and we don't have our hopes up it will be much different with Tansy, but just maybe we will get lucky with this one. Cross your fingers. Some have had success with grazing sheep and goats. Tansy does respond to herbicides but it takes repeated treatment, as does pulling since root fragments can resprout. If pulling, wearing gloves is recommended to avoid possible skin reactions

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lake and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Judy H - Cloquet
on: 2009-08-09 20:21:54

They're growing along the fence in my mother's yard. Very large - 2-3 feet and deep roots.

Posted by: Stacy - the North Shore
on: 2009-09-25 10:12:02

I believe this is the plant that was everywhere we went along the North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais. It has a definite odor at this time of year (September)

Posted by: Bonnie - Blackduck - Beltrami County
on: 2010-07-28 11:19:14

Saw this species along the woodline and bike trail near Blackduck, MN.

Posted by: Sandy - Southern Crow Wing and Morrison County
on: 2010-08-07 09:58:02

This species is plentiful up here.

Posted by: Kelly - Karlstad- Kittson County
on: 2011-05-10 10:44:10

The farm I moved to is full of tansey! It loves my vegtable garden...Help!How do you get rid of it? I have pulled it up, when young, but established plants have an incredible root system. The problem after digging or pulling it up....then what? It does not seem to die, burning adult flowering plants seems to spread the seed! I do not like to use chemical herbicides in my garden but, that has not even killed it!!!!

Posted by: Gordon - Tenstrike ( N.E. of Bemidji)
on: 2011-07-15 22:29:32

Virtually all disturbed sites particularly roadsides and old fields. This should be on the noxious weed list. It spreads by seed and rhizome making dense mats in old fields. I am personally aware that it is widespread from Duluth westward to include Beltrami, Clearwater, Pennington, Marshall, Roseau, Kittson,Red lake, and Polk Counties and probably most counties. The comment about the smell is correct it STINKS.

Posted by: Dan - Two Harbors
on: 2014-06-27 08:23:23

Yes, this is EVERYWHERE in Two Harbors around Agate Bay and all around Lighthouse point. I do hate the smell.

Posted by: Beth - Lakeville
on: 2014-07-25 00:03:57

I saw on Craigslist just today people either selling this or listing it for free.

Posted by: Pat W - North Shore of Lake Superior
on: 2014-09-19 15:50:05

Went to a trip to Duluth and the N. Shore this week and was appalled at the amount of Tansy that has over run the entire area. It seems to be totally out of control. I cannot imagine how to eliminate it from the environment up there. Please: someone try to organize an effort to eradicate this stuff. It is over-running all the native wild flowers

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-09-19 15:57:02

Pat, you should direct your ire at the MN Department of Agriculture. They are the regulatory agency in MN that allows this kind of thing to happen. Tansy is on a "control" weed list for MN, which means there are supposed to be programs to control its spread, but there are in fact none for the out-of-control populations (of it or any other weed) in NE Minnesota. It breaks my heart every time I go to the North Shore. There are so many rare species up there that don't stand a chance against the tansy onslaught. :-(

Posted by: Pat W - Cass cty
on: 2014-09-19 23:12:03

Thank you Ms chayka for the reference back to the Mn Dept Ag. I went to their web site and found this under Noxious weeds. "the Noxious & Invasive Weed Unit is currently researching the potential for developing a biological control program for common tansy, an invasive weed of upland terrestrial landscapes. This project is an international effort driven by a consortium of US and Canadian agencies and organizations. This work is in the initial stage and will require a significant partnership among the U.S. and Canadian parties to secure resources for overseas exploration and host-specificity testing of potential biological control agents."

How long(years) do you suppose this is going to take before anything is actively done? There needs to be a focus on spraying herbicide in Spring along all the roadsides now, not years later.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-09-20 20:58:03

Pat, I wouldn't count on a bio control wiping out the populations, they don't typically work that well and they aren't intended to be the only means of control. Regardless, it will take many years of research before a reliable bio agent is found. Too long to save NE MN, I fear.

Posted by: Ellis - golden valley
on: 2015-08-22 11:05:26

I personally love the Tansy. The smell to me is wonderful when dried.

Posted by: Laurie O - Battle Creek Regional Park
on: 2016-11-01 20:02:56

My daughter spotted this one and asked if I wanted to see the "bee eggs." I said sure! Took a photo and someone identified it as tansy.

Posted by: Mary B - Minnetonks
on: 2017-07-17 17:56:17

I bought tansy at a nursery around 1994. It was, at the time labeled as a mn wildflower. I still have the plant. It has not taken over garden. I often pull it when it spreads. I like to dry it for its color and scent. Is it better for the community if I destroy it?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-17 18:42:32

Mary, there are tansy cultivars that are less prone to invasion than the straight species. A neighbor down the street has one and I have not seen it escape down the road in the 20 years I've lived here. Having said that, seed spreads by wind, water and critters and may travel great distances, especially by birds. Just because you haven't had much trouble in your backyard garden doesn't mean it hasn't made its way into the wild. And tansy is on the MN "control" weed list, meaning landowners are required to manage it. Perhaps you are, in your way, but it's still a nasty plant. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I don't find any beauty in it, myself.

Posted by: Pat W - Cass county
on: 2017-08-07 20:39:00

Another comment from me: I see that it has now taken over the roadsides on county road 12, the bypass around Crosby-Ironton-Deerwood from Brainerd. The farmers there are going to have a hard time controlling this in their fields.

Posted by: Ed Snider - My Farm near Tamarack, Mn
on: 2018-05-20 05:25:33

I have this by my barn and in another place. Thought it was petty.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-05-20 12:22:14

Ed, tansy is highly invasive and aggressive so you'll have it absolutely everywhere if you don't do something to get rid of it. Your neighbors will thank you for it, too.

Posted by: Sherrie Kahn - Apple Valley
on: 2018-08-12 22:40:47

There is a clump off pilot knob between McAndrews and diamond Lake road that just came into full bloom.

Posted by: Richard Fleming - Duluth
on: 2019-04-22 20:56:54

Bio control can be extremely effective. There is a reason why garlic mustard is not out of control in its native territory and it's an extreme problem here. The reason is the lack of bio control here. No one has to "manage" garlic mustard where it's native. It's that simple. The other thing is that the USDA's TAG group has stonewalled bio control agents that would have very high success. For example, there are two weevils, C. scrobicollis and C. constrictus, that were found in research to control >90% of the garlic mustard. But the TAG group blocks and blocks and blocks introduction of these weevils. Scrobicollis is monophagous so there is zero reason to block it. The lack of success of bio control is because of the chemical lobby, I'll wager.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-04-23 06:22:43

Richard, a bio control agent for tansy has been in development since 2006, but is not yet ready for release. The MN Dept. of Ag has been an active player in this ongoing research. See CABI for more info. Note that a bio agent requires intensive testing to ensure it won't negatively impact species other than the target, tansy in this case. It's a long process.

CABI also has info on the garlic mustard biocontrol, which was very recently approved and first released in Canada in 2018. I have it on very good authority from someone at the University of Minnesota, who has been involved from the beginning, that TAG approved it in 2017 and it's now going through an APHIS and USFWS assessment, which can take years more. They also assured me that there is NO interference from the chemical industry but there is some degree of politics involved.

Posted by: Darrell compton - Southern crowwing county (Dagget Brook township
on: 2019-08-17 06:40:27

We discovered the plant some years back on vacant farmland that we purchased , I tried round up , mowing and tilling to control the spread . MSM60 does the job call me for info

Posted by: Dan Burns - Princeton
on: 2019-10-12 15:14:14

Observed in Foreston (Mille Lacs Co.), at the edge of the cemetery there, in early October 2019.

Posted by: Jule - Itasca County
on: 2020-07-13 09:49:30

we are fighting to keep this out of our land---it isn't easy because it is moving along with the all of the ATVs and Snowmobiles. we really need help with this one--- while there be some kind of biological control??? please let me know

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-07-13 13:22:16

Julie, I'm afraid there isn't much hope for eradicating this pest. It is too easily spread along roadsides and trails, as you have discovered. There are currently no biological controls for it, though rumor has it that grazing by sheep or goats might keep it in check.

Posted by: Cory - Park Rapids
on: 2020-08-19 05:37:01

I have had reasonable success controlling this but it takes a LOT OF TIME AND WORK. For fields that had it I cloud and disc it, then disc it whenever anything started growing after any would first sprout for two full years, never otherwise leveling the ground between discing. As far as anything else not near trees I chemically dealt with it with repeated treatment every time they started to grow back for the last two years. Anything near trees I manually dug the entire plant and soil around it then burned the plant and soil in an outdoor stove whenever I found one. I also have neighbors watching for and eradicating anything they may see. I don't think I can call them destroyed entirely yet but I think it's mostly under control now.

Posted by: Robert Freemore - Aitkin county
on: 2021-07-20 08:58:53

Do not let the blooms form and mature. Pull the early growth in your landscape. I had blank dirt brought in and it was seed laden but I am staying ahead of any plants that might otherwise flower. Dirt was top soil for mound septic install.

Posted by: Dile - Upper Peninsula
on: 2021-08-20 18:05:24

Tansy is a very useful plant, it keeps bugs away. But if you're determined to get rid of it, Make sure you've identified that it is actually the invasive non native variety. There are native Tansy varieties such as Lake Huron Tansy, Camphor Dune Tansy, and Douglas' Tansy, as well as non native but non invasive ones such as Isla Gold and Crispum Tansy. They are all slightly different, and the native ones are great choices for rock gardens. Also, all varieties including the common Tansy are great for the look of ferns where you can't have them - in full sun!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-21 04:08:31

Dile, the three natives you mention are all considered the same species, Tanacetum bipinnatum, which is rare in Wisconsin and northern Michigan and would not behave like this non-native invasive species. Regardless, any small benefit there might possibly be for "keeping bugs away" is far outweighed by the destruction this weed causes to local ecosystems. It's a bad, bad plant, plain and simple. If you want fern-like leaves in full sun, numerous natives fit that bill including lady fern, sensitive fern, yarrow, prairie mimosa and wild senna, all of which are available from native plant nurseries.

Posted by: J Miller - north central
on: 2022-06-25 14:12:16

My understanding is tansy is toxic to "livestock" with no specifications on cattle, hogs, birds, sheep or goats, et Petra. Your website suggests livestock can graze on it. Please clarify.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-25 16:54:03

J Miller, we only mention sheep and goats, not livestock in general. Numerous references, including a USDA fact sheet, say sheep and goats suffer no ill effects from grazing on tansy.

Posted by: Max - St Louis County
on: 2022-07-07 09:10:30

We bought a house last year and just realized recently that our property (.6 acres) is absolutely infested with this stuff. We are trying to deal with it as best we can so it doesn't flower again this year, but the sheer amount is horrifying. There are some plants in the uncleared portion of our land that are the size of very large bushes, way way too big to pull. We are hoping we can get through and at least chop off the majority of the plants so they can't flower and pull any smaller ones that we can. Is there any native species we could put down to try to choke some of it out? We do naturally have a lot of goldenrod, bee balm, and wild strawberries growing.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-07 16:39:00

Max, I don't know of any native plant that can naturally help you be rid of the tansy, but you might try checking with your county's Soil and Water Conservation District. It's possible they could offer some assistance or guidance.

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