The story of Echinacea goes back many thousands of years to the formation the the prairie ecosystem.  As the Rocky Mountains arose and the glaciers retreated, the Great Plains grasslands evolved in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, where seasonal precipitation occurs mostly in spring and summer.  The farther away one gets from the Rockies, one can expect to find more precipitation.  Purple coneflower, not needing very much precipitation and preferring drier soils, settled predominately in the west-central part of the Great Plains in what is commonly referred to as mixed-grass prairie.

Echinacea angustifolia is often confused with its two cousins:  Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida. There are actually nine species of Echinacea all together. The three I mentioned above along with two Federally-listed endangered species - E. tennesseensis (obviously from Tennessee), and the rare Appalachian species, E. laevigata. The yellow-flowered E. paradoxa (the paradox of this "purple coneflower" is that it is yellow) and E. simulata (simulating E. pallida), are both native to the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri. Other unusual species include E. atrorubens, which occurs in eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, and E. sanguinea, which occurs in Louisiana and eastern Texas, with one population in southwestern Arkansas.  (Foster).

Purple Coneflower or Narrow-leafed Pale Purple Coneflower is the common name for Echinacea angustifolia.  It is a member of the extremely large sunflower family (Asteraceae).  Aster means "star" in Greek, in reference to the radiate arrangement of flowers in the heads. The generic name stems from the Greek echinos, "sea urchin," in allusion to the prickly persistent head. The specific epithet angustifolia means "narrow-leaved" in botanical Latin.

Description: Echinacea is a perennial 1'-3' tall. Leaves alternate, lanceolate to oblong, up to 30cm long and 4cm wide; lower ones petiolate, upper ones sessila, Flowers solitary on long peduncles; heads 5 to 8cm across. Petals pale pink to purplish, 2 to 4cm long, spreading; disk brown, dome-shaped, prickly. Common on upland praires and badlands and also on the drier slopes of ditches.  (Sedivec, K.K., and Barker, W.T.).


Range map - Great Plains

MinDak range map
ORIGIN Native to North America   GROWING SEASON Begins in May, flowering June-August
HABITAT Grows abundantly on most upland soil types but prefers dry prairies and rocky sidehills with weakly developed soils   DISTRIBUTION Throughout the Great Plains. Not in NE or SE Minnesota. All ND (mostly western ND)
HEIGHT 1' - 3'   COLOR Light Pink to Pale Purple
MOISTURE Dry, Medium   SOIL Sandy, Loam

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