Tanacetum Parthenium – The “Feverfew”

A reverent, elegant flower that can grow over 3 feet tall, Tanacetum parthenium is a popular garden plant due to its low maintenance needs and tolerance of a variety of soil types. The leaves range from grey-green to green (depending on cultivar) and the flowers are either greenish yellow or white.

The Latin name for this plant comes from its use as a fever reducer in ancient herbal medicines. Tanacetum parthenium has been used for centuries as an insect repellent, which is likely why it’s also known as “buttons feverfew.” It’s also common in Mexico and Europe under a variety of names including “altamiza,” “manzanilla” or “maids. “

The foliage of Tanacetum parthenium can be used fresh or dried in for potpourri and sachets, as well as herbal incense. Simply crush the leaves and stems to release the plant’s lovely aromatic and spicy fragrance. The flowers are also used in herbal medicines to reduce inflammation, fever and general aches and pains. The flowers can be powdered and added to a foot bath or steamed and inhaled directly as an analgesic. You can also place flower petals in boiling water to make a tea that will help reduce flu symptoms such as sore throat, chills, body aches, headache, runny nose or congestion.

Tanacetum parthenium is thriving in many locations across the United States, both as a garden and wild plant. This herbaceous perennial makes an especially attractive ground cover in dry locations with poor or rocky soil. The plant spreads by rhizomes to form colonies, so it can be invasive if not kept in check. It prefers full sun and moist fertile soil containing some clay or sand.

This herb can be used to make contact poison for small game such as rabbits or squirrels. To make the extract, take 20 pounds of fresh plants and place them into 2 gallons of water and boil for a short time until there is only 1/2 cup left. Strain the decoction and let it cool. Add ten drops of tincture to a tumbler full of water and squirt it onto the back of your hand for application. This is an effective poison because it affects the nervous system, but has no affect on the heart or lungs. It is thought to be less toxic than strychnine.

Tanacetum parthenium
Photo: Tanacetum parthenium

The most common pests found on Tanacetum parthenium include the spider mite and a wasp known as “altamiza lace bug.” The spider mites are largely harmless, but their population can be controlled with use of horticultural oil sprays. The “altamiza lace bug” is a serious pest that occasionally feeds on the plant and can even defoliate a plant, leaving bare branches susceptible to other pests. All attempts to control this species should be made by professionals.

The flowers of Tanacetum parthenium are typically pollinated by bees, insects, or birds and are biennial. However, the flowers can be self-pollinating in some varieties. This species of wild chamomile has been grown successfully from seed for decades in many gardens around the world. The seeds of T. parthenium are typically carried by rodents, birds and bees, but may also be spread via human activities such as gardening.

The seeds of Tanacetum parthenium may be used as an insect repellent. The flowers contain a toxic oil that repels most flying insects, and the plant is commonly used in herbal medicine to prevent infections caused by mosquitoes and other insects. The plant’s leaves are also sometimes used to reduce swelling and the pain caused by insect stings. The flowers of the plant are also used to make herbal sachets for use during colds or flu season.

Tanacetum parthenium is also a source of essential oils that in turn can be distilled and used as perfume. The flowers are used as a flavor enhancer in various beverages and are a popular ingredient in herbal teas. The leaves, stems and roots of the plant contain Coumarin, an essential oil also known “coumarin,” which gives the plant its coloration, scent and taste. The main constituents of Tanacetum parthenium are mainly terpenic essential oils (terpinene, linalool) with minor amounts of sesquiterpenes (delta-3-carene).

This halophilic species is designed to grow in saltwater, and requires a minimum of 2% saline. It features a dioecious reproductive system, where female and male structures are found on separate individuals. The flower parts are highly reduced and fused into a cup-like structure lined with hairy, glandular hairs. The flowers have a basic structure with both the calyx and corolla present, therefore the plant is considered to be dichlamydeous. A corolla tube surrounds a ring of numerous stamens and this is followed by an enlarged structure called the “corona,” which features several petaloid staminodes surrounding the disk floret. The flowers represent a unique structure called the “brevior” form, in which the stigma is reduced, though it still retains its stigmatic function. The calyx is divided into about 20 distinct lobes. The flowers are solitary, separate, and borne on stalks that are erect or nearly so. There are seven whorls (five visible) of leaves in the subspecies T. parthenium subsp. parthenium. The leaves are generally round to elliptic in shape with a length ranging from 2-20 cm with a width ranging from 0.2-2 cm. Each leaf is divided into three divisions called “lobes,” which have the same surface color as the leaf itself but are tapered at the ends, giving them a slightly indented appearance when viewed from above or sometimes obliquely from below where they emerge from the leaf cavity that lies beneath them. The leaves arise from an underground rhizome, but the flowers are borne directly on the surface of the plant.

Aquatic plants adapted to grow in brackish or hypersaline environments such as Tanacetum parthenium, have evolved a set of unique adaptations that allow them to survive and flourish in this environment. The plants have a restricted salt tolerance or actual salinity tolerance, which is greatly reduced compared to plants that prefer other salinities. The salt tolerance is determined by several factors including the physiological status of the plant and its genetic make up, so it differs between species. It is nearly impossible to alter these features for cultivation, so the salinity tolerance must be reduced or increased within certain levels. The plants stay within this narrow range of tolerance by limiting salt uptake through the production of various mechanisms.

Tanacetum parthenium can tolerate salt concentrations ranging from 0-100% salt, however this species has its growth limited by the lower end of this range (0-10%), compared to other halophytes that can grow up to 50% saline. For a plant to be able to tolerate salt concentrations higher than 10%, it must either move out or down the salinity gradient. Tradescantia zebrina and Hymenocallis caroliniana are able to survive in hypersaline environments by moving to lower salinity areas, aided by their long roots. Cakile edentula from Australia can survive hypersaline environments by growing either further down the salinity gradient (hypersaline lakes) or higher up the gradient (higher salinity swamps). Salt tolerance of some species can be found to be correlated with their growth rate at low salt concentrations, i.e. the slower growing species are more tolerant than faster growing species when exposed to a lower salt concentration.

There are very few studies that have shown any definitive correlation between the level of tolerance in a halophyte and its growth or mortality rate compared to other species, but it is believed that Cakile edentula, Tradescantia zebrina and Hymenocallis caroliniana can all tolerate higher salinity due to their ability to grow at a slower rate over a longer period of time, which gives them the ability to tolerate harsher conditions (higher salinity).

Tanacetum parthenium has an adaptive mechanism known as physiological acclimatization, which is an adjustment of the plant?s metabolic function in response to saline conditions. This process allows the plant to remain inconspicuous during periods of higher salinity, especially during periods when the salinity level has not reached the threshold point. The adaptation of the metabolic function involves several physiological processes, including changes in enzyme activity, thiol and antioxidant levels, phytochrome responses and salt content. It is believed that these adjustments allow the plant to survive in saline environments that would otherwise prove lethal. In addition to these adjustments, Tanacetum parthenium may also adjust its photosynthetic rate in response to chloride ions present in its environment. The photosynthetic rate was increased by as much as 5-6% under hypersaline conditions compared to normal saline.

Hybridization is another adaptation in Tanacetum parthenium, which is made possible by its ability to produce male and female flowers on different plants. The teas contain compounds that may prevent the plants from self-fertilization. This mechanism is thought to be related to the formation of cyphellae inside the corolla. However, this mechanism has not yet been proven. Tanacetum parthenium can also self-fertilize as well, especially in areas with a short growing season where pollinators are not available for long periods of time.

The presence of halophytes in marine environments is not particularly surprising due to the fact that they are terrestrial plants which have adapted to be able to survive in this environment. These plants can grow in the intertidal zone, where water levels change with respect to time of day and tidal cycles, thus there must be an adaptation within the plant that allows it to resist these fluctuations. The species Tanacetum parthenium has been found growing in tide pools on rocky shores as well as near low tide mark on sandy shores. It has been observed that tissue from above the high water line seems to drain salt from its leaves, while tissue from below the high-water line absorbs salt from its roots.

With all of the adaptations that Tanacetum parthenium has made in order to survive in hypersaline environments, the plant has still not been able to be domesticated for use in horticulture. The reason for this is likely due to the fact that it has no known commercial value and would most likely not be able to be grown without some sort of artificial means of growing it. Currently, there are many other species of Salicornia around the world which have a much broader range of genetic variation compared to T. parthenium, making them more suitable for crop cultivation.

In order to transform the ecology of a habitat, one must first understand the species’ environment. The salt concentration in habitats is an important environmental factor that determines the species’ adaptation to their environment. It has been proven that when these halophytes are present in areas with a high salinity gradient, they are unable to survive. The main impediment to their survival is likely because of it’s limited ability to tolerate high concentrations of salt. This occurs when it’s growth rate is not able to keep up as its salt tolerance decreases with increasing salinity. It is possible, however, that some species have the capacity to tolerate higher salinity concentrations.

Salt tolerance of Tanacetum parthenium is directly related to its growth rate, which can vary between different species and even on the same plant within a given species over time. Some species may be able to survive at a lower salt concentration by moving into areas with a lower salinity gradient.Additionally, the presence of other nutrients may also play a role in their ability to withstand this change in salinity. Tanacetum parthenium has been shown to produce many physiological adjustments in order to tolerate high salt concentrations without slowing its growth rate.

In order to transform the habitat, one must first understand the species present in that habitat. The adaptation of these halophytes have allowed them to tolerate high salinity concentrations and grow in habitats where they would not be able to survive without these adaptations.The salt concentration gradient is an especially important factor in determining whether or not a species can survive in an area. When a plant cannot grow at a fast enough rate to keep up with the increasing salinity, it will eventually perish. However, some species may have the potential to tolerate higher salinity concentrations without slowing their growth rate.