One of our favorite wildflowers at Winding Pathways is the purple coneflower. It’s named for petals that radiate backward in a cone shape. The genus name Echinacea means “hedgehog” in Greek and derives from the prickly seed head that forms in late summer and persists into winter.
Native to woods’ edges and clearings throughout Eastern North America it has been widely planted and is now common in natural areas and cultivated yards across the continent. There are many coneflower species but the purple is probably the best known. It’s a gorgeous plant that pollinators love, is in bloom for a long time, and is amazingly easy to grow in both formal and naturalistic plantings. Deer seem to leave them alone. Few wildflowers are as well suited to backyards, especially those that have some sun.
Many people claim medicinal value from Echinaceas, but scientific evidence is mixed and uncertain. Enjoy it for its beauty, ease of growing and pollinator benefit.
A simple and free way to establish this perennial is to is to glean seeds. Keep an eye out for blooming coneflowers this summer in places were collection is allowed and return in the fall. Wearing leather gloves rub the prickly heads between fingers into a bag to free the seeds. Then, immediately scatter them in appropriate places in your yards. Coneflowers love moist soil and partial to full sun.
Coneflower seed is readily available at garden stores, and many nurseries sell potted young plants. Usually purple coneflowers bloom the second growing season after planting and need little care.