Family: Asteraceae (daisies)
A perennial plant with large, daisy-like flowers with slightly drooping magenta “petals” (ray flowers). Blooms May through October. Flowerheads are usually solitary, terminal, and quite large. The disk (center) is orange and spiny. The ray flowers are various shades of magenta or rose-purple. Basal leaves have long stems and grow to 6 inches long; they are coarsely toothed, oblong, and rounded at the base. Upper leaves are smaller, lance-shaped, and may or may not have stems.
Size: Height: to about 3 feet.
Habitat and conservation:
Appears in openings in moist woods and wooded bottomlands, upland prairies, savannas, pastures, and roadsides, preferring moister soils than other species of coneflower. Many species of coneflowers have suffered in the wild due to indiscriminate, often illegal root-digging for the international herbal medicine market. This species, along with various hybrids and culivars, is commonly available at garden centers.
Distribution in Missouri:
Scattered nearly throughout the state, though mostly absent from the Bootheel and northwestern Missouri.
Though this species is scattered in the wild, it is widely grown in cultivation.
In gardens, purple coneflowers are showy, long-blooming, hardy, and good for cut flowers. Native Americans used the roots of coneflowers to make medicines, and modern herbalists continue to use this extract, called “Echinacea” after the genus name, for treating the common cold and other ailments.
This species is a good nectar source for butterflies and bees. In winter, goldfinches relish its seeds. Its network of root fibers help to bind soils, protecting against erosion.
The large, showy, rose-purple flower heads of purple coneflower make it a standout in open woodlands as well as in the home garden. The genus name, “Echinacea,” means “hedgehog” and refers to the flower’s spiny center cone.