A Great Perennial: Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
The Coneflower is a very important plant to grow for pollinators, providing pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, and other insects. Purple Coneflower grows in prairie areas throughout the southwest quarter of Ohio, and occasionally in open woodlands. In home gardens, these plants prefer full sun to partial shade. New plantings may need to be watered until established.
The nectar is a favorite of the migrating Monarch butterflies. In the fall, the seeds of this plant are a favorite of seed-eating birds including Goldfinches and Chickadees.
The name Echinacea comes from the Greek work echinas meaning "sea urchin" or "hedgehog"
Where can you buy the native Coneflower species?
If you go to your local retailer or garden center and they do not carry the native species Echinaceae purperea, you could buy the seed from OPN Seed, or check with an Ohio native plant grower. For a list of native plant growers in Ohio visit www.ohionativeplantmonth.org/native-plant-sources.
What Coneflower Varieties are Suggested?
There are Lots of Coneflower varieties in the trade. If your local retailer or garden center does not grow the native species, they may grow one of several varieties that might appeal to you. If you do buy a variety instead of the straight species, make sure the flower shape is very similar to the original species. Flowers that are "doubles" or have twice as many petals as normal, are apt to make it harder for pollinators to access nectar or pollen.
Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus' is a vigorous grower with large, pink flowers, and looks quite a bit like the native species. And Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' is also a vigorous grower with large flowers, but the flowers are pure white. There are a long list of other varieties that are crosses with native species. Echinacea purpurea 'Cheyenne Spirit' is a seed-grown variety that displays lots of sunset colors at an economical price. Echinacea purpurea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' is an easy-to-grow Coneflower with large magenta flowers that bloom from early through late summer. A very popular variety.
Fun Purple Coneflower Facts and Stories:
Native American tribes including the Delaware and Algonquin, used Coneflower as a drug to treat venereal disease, snake bites, headaches, toothaches, and upper respiratory ailments (Michigan State Ethnobotany).
Lloyd Brothers Pharmaceutical Company of Cincinnati, reported in 1923 that the Echinacea drug was the most used drug in America since 1885. Even today, Echinacea tea can be purchased from pharmacies and health food stores. Recent research suggests that medical compounds found in Echinacea purpurea may stimulate the body's immune system against viral and bacterial infections.