Plant Profile: Eastern Purple Coneflower, Echinacea Purpurea
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.
Specific epithet: purpurea
Echinacea purpurea, or eastern purple coneflower, is the only native Echinacea species in Florida, although it is found elsewhere in the United States and Canada. E. purpurea is endangered in Florida, where the only vouchered specimens exist in the calcareous hammocks of Gadsen County.
This perennial plant, which grows in clumps, may have individual stems of up to 3 feet high (Figure 1). Although you could probably guess that the specific epithet, “purpurea,” points to the purple tint of its ray flowers (Figure 1), did you know that its genus is attributable to the appearance of its inflorescence as well? Echinacea is Greek for hedgehog - a reference to its prickly, dome-shaped disk flowers.
The nectar of E. purpurea is a favorite among bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds. In turn, they act as the plant's pollinators, whether or not they realize it. Upon landing on a flower, these animals end up with pollen stuck to their bodies; they deposit this pollen onto the subsequent flowers they visit. Other animals take advantage of the dry fruits or achenes.
People may drink teas or take supplements made from the plant's roots and flowers, which are purported to promote a healthy immune system (Figure 2).
This is a great plant for beginners because is drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance. Interested in growing your own? Consider purchasing from a member of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries: http://www.floridanativenurseries.org/plants/detail/echinacea-purpurea.
- Echinacea purpurea. © 2012 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, n.d. Web. 11 Apr 2012. http://www.wildflower.org.
- Coreopsis. Floridata LC, n.d. Web. 11 Apr 2012. http://www.floridata.com.
- Schwartz, E.. "Plant Adaptations." Biology of plants. Missouri Botanical Garden, 2009. Web. 11 Apr 2012. http://www.mbgnet.net.
- Wunderlin, RP and Hansen, BF. 1998. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida.