General: Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). Echinacea purpurea is a perennial herb 1.5-6 dm (0.5-2 ft) tall, with a woody rhizome or tough caudex. The plant has one to several rough-hairy stems, mostly unbranched. Basal and lower cauline leaf blades are ovate to ovate-lanceolate with serrate edges, up to 2 dm long and 1.5 dm wide, and slightly heart-shaped at the base. Cauline leaves are similar but become smaller as they extend up the stem. The flowers are in heads like sunflowers with the disk up to 3.5 cm across. The drooping ray florets have ligules 3-8 cm long, and are reddish-purple, lavender, or rarely pink. The disk florets are 4.5-5.5 mm long, and are situated among stiff bracts. Flowers bloom from June to August. Pollen grains are yellow. Fruits are small, dark, 4-angled achenes.
echinacea, snakeroot, Kansas snakeroot, narrow-leaved purple coneflower, scurvy root, Indian head, comb flower, black susans, and hedge hog
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Historically concentrated in Missouri and Arkansas, spotty throughout the south and east.
The purple coneflower grows in rocky prairie sites in open, wooded regions. Echinacea purpurea extends eastward through the Great Plains bioregion from northeast Texas, Missouri, and Michigan. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Comments: Open woodlands and thickets, edge of prairie remnants and glades. Partial to full sun.
Native Echinacea species are dwindling in the wild from loss of habitat and over-harvesting. E. purpurea is not as threatened as E. angustifolia. In the wild, E. purpurea grows sporadically along waterways, with a few scattered individuals. Plant densities are too low for efficient harvest for commercial purposes. E. purpurea is the most widely adaptable species for cultivation. It is cold and heat hardy, easy to grow, and boasts high yields. Bioactive constituents of E. purpurea compare favorably with E. angustifolia, although there are proportional differences. E. angustifolia has more of the alkylamides, while E. purpurea has more of the equally immune enhancing caffeic acid derivatives. They are both effective medicines. A combination of both probably affords the most broad-spectrum immune-enhancing effect. Historically, E. purpurea was rarely utilized by pharmaceutical companies.
It takes three to four years for roots to reach harvestable size (Foster 1991). Yields for cultivated, dried roots of three-year-old Echinacea purpurea grown at Trout Lake, Washington, were 131 kg/ha (1,200 lbs/acre) (Foster 1991). According to Richo Cech (1995), a mature two-year old E. purpurea plant yields 2.25 pounds of fresh flowering aerial portions and 0.5 pounds of fresh root per plant.
Flower-Visiting Insects of Purple Coneflower in Illinois
(Bees collect pollen or suck nectar, other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Robertson, otherwise they are from Moure & Hurd, Hilty, and Clinebell as indicated below)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus affinis (Cl), Bombus auricomus sn, Bombus fraternus sn, Bombus griseocallis sn fq (Rb, Cl), Bombus impatiens sn (Rb, Cl), Bombus nevadensis (Cl), Bombus pensylvanica sn, Psithyrus variabilis sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina sp. (Cl), Ceratina dupla dupla sn cp; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Triepeolus concavus sn; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn, Melissodes desponsa sn, Svastra obliqua obliqua sn cp fq; Anthophoridae (Xylocopini): Xylocopa virginica sn (Rb, Cl); Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis brevis sn, Megachile inimica sayi sn, Megachile petulans sn cp; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Ashmeadiella bucconis sn cp; Megachilidae (Trypetini): Heriades sp. (Cl)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon virescens sn cp (Rb, Cl), Augochlorella sp. (Cl), Halictus ligatus sn cp fq (Rb, C), Lasioglossum sp. (Cl), Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp, Lasioglossum obscurus (MH), Lasioglossum pectoralis sn cp, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn cp, Lasioglossum pruinosus (Cl), Lasioglossum versatus sn cp; Andrenidae (Panurginae): Heterosarus albitarsis sn cp
Sphecidae (Larrinae): Tachytes aurulenta; Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila nigricans, Ammophila procera
Empidae: Empis clausa; Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa sp. (Cl), Exoprosopa decora, Exoprosopa fasciata, Poeciloanthrax alcyon, Rhynchanthrax parvicornis, Systoechus vulgaris; Conopidae: Zodion obliquefasciatum
Nymphalidae: Chlosyne nycteis, Danaus plexippus (Rb, H), Euptoieta claudia, Speyeria cybele (Rb, Cl), Vanessa atalanta (H), Vanessa cardui (Rb, H), Vanessa virginiensis; Pieridae: Colias philodice, Pieris rapae, Pontia protodice; Papilionidae: Battus philenor (Cl), Papilio glaucus (Rb, H, Cl), Papilio troilus
Hesperiidae: Epargyreus clarus (Cl), Erynnis horatius (Cl), Hylephila phyleus (Cl), Polites peckius (Cl), Thorybes bathyllus
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis (Cl)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Echinacea purpurea
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Echinacea purpurea
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Historically widespread, but with spotty distribution and small populations. Habitat loss is a problem. Reports of "purple coneflower" root digging might refer to Echinacea angustifolia var. angustifolia, rather than E. purpurea.
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.
Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Comments: Human actual threat: Habitat destruction is the primary problem. Example: An E. purpurea population at the U.S. Army, Fort Polk Military Reservation in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, existed along the edges of a glade that was partially destroyed by military training exercises in 1998 (K. McKeown, pers. obs. 1998). E. purpurea is listed in Louisiana where such glade habitats are rare.
Note that "purple coneflower" is also a common name for E. angustifolia var. angustifolia and reports of root digging of E. purpurea are most probably reports of digging of the former species. E. purpurea fortunately tends to be located in remote areas that would not be appealing to root diggers.
Natural actual threat: Succession is also a problem contributing to habitat destruction. One example of such succession is on private land where a locally rare population occurs in Madison Co., North Carolina. The human potential threat for wild root harvesting is low because the (remaining) populations of E. purpurea tend to presently occur in remote locations. (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).
Biological Research Needs: Genetic diversity.
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
ECPU is widely available through most nurseries and seed companies. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”
Cultivars: King, Sombrero, Alba, Bright Star Leuchste, Crimson Star, Magnus, Ovation, Springbrook’s Crimson Star, Talent, Thompson and Morgan Hybrids, White Flower Farm Strain, White Lustre, and White Swan.
Herbivores, such as insects and deer, are not a problem with Echinacea. Gophers and moles can be a problem as they eat the roots. Goldfinches love the Echinacea seed crop and can clear out all the seed in a few days.
Seed can be harvested during the fall of the second year. Harvest the seed in autumn when seeds are ripe, before the fall rains set in. Seed should be from the largest and most vital plants.
Stop watering when the seeds begin to mature – excessive watering at this stage is not needed and it may damage the seed crop.
Snip the cone-heads off and put them in buckets. If the seed is still a little green, dry the cone-heads in the sun.
Separate the seed from the chaffy debris. It is important to break up the cone-heads without damaging the seed. Run the seed through a hammer mill or compost chopper at low RPM through a one-inch screen. Then pass the seed and chaff through a ¼ inch stationary screen. Shake the remaining seed and chaff through a screen that is too small for the seed to pass. What you have left is the seed with only the chaff that is the same size as the seed.
Lay out a flannel sheet and pour a cupful of the seed/chaff along the edge. Lift the top edge of the sheet and roll the seed to the other end where your partner is waiting to carefully funnel the seed into a bowl.
Make sure the seed is thoroughly dry. Store in plastic bags in a cool, dry, and dark place. Plastic bags allow the seed to respire, while glass does not. Seed thus stored remains viable for about three years.
Echinacea purpurea seed is easy to germinate. The following information is provided by Richo Cech (1995).
The seed can be spring-planted without cold, or cold stratification, to germinate.
Propagation is easily done in flats, which are sown with approximately ¼ ounce of seed per flat, evenly sprinkled on the surface and covered with about ¼ inch of potting soil.
The flats are left outdoors through the winter and watered if necessary.
A light screen over the flats will diminish the severity of heavy rain and snow, and will also keep out cats.
Spring germination can be greatly enhanced by bringing the flat of cold-conditioned seed into the greenhouse, whereupon rapid germination may be expected.
Once the second set of true leaves appears, the seedlings are put into pots or are spaced at approximately two inch centers in another deep flat. Seedlings must be carefully weeded and watered.
In late spring or early summer, the hardy seedlings, now with a four-to-six inch root system, may be transplanted into the field or garden one or two feet apart.
Regular spacing with one foot between the plants and two feet between the rows will result in approximately 21, 800 plants per acre. A generous two-foot spacing with three feet between the rows will result in approximately 7,500 plants per acre.
Timely watering during dry periods greatly increases the size of this plant. A sparing side dressing of organic compost, usually in the mid-spring, will assist this sometimes slow-growing herbaceous perennial in outranking competitive weeds.
An ounce of well-cleaned E. purpurea seed contains approximately 6,000 seeds. A pound contains around 96,000 seeds. Given a normal spacing of one foot between the plants and two feet between the rows, an acre would contain 21,800 plants. Given a 68% germination rate, a pound of good seed could produce three acres of plants. This same acre, dormant harvested for the roots at the end of the second year of growth, would produce (at 1/2 lb. per root) 10,900 lbs of fresh root.
Propagation from cuttings
Purple coneflower can be propagated by division of the crowns. This technique results in stronger plants initially and eliminates the tedious nurturing and tending of the slow-growing seedlings (Kindscher 1992). Harvest roots when plants are dormant, when leaves begin to turn brown. Wash roots and remove most for use. Then carefully divide the crown by hand to make one to five “plantlets.” Replant the divisions as soon as possible. It is important that they don’t dry out, so if replanting is delayed a couple of hours, dip the plants briefly in water and keep them in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, shady place until you are ready to replant them. When replanting, ensure that the remaining fine roots are well spread out in the planting hole and the soil is pressed firmly around the plant. These plantlets can be grown in flats in the greenhouse during the winter to re-establish their root systems, then replanted in the field the following spring for another round of production.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Ethnobotanic: Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) was and still is a widely used medicinal plant of the Plains Indians. It was used as a painkiller and for a variety of ailments, including toothache, coughs, colds, sore throats, and snake bite (Kindscher 1992). The Choctaw use purple coneflower as a cough medicine and gastro-intestinal aid (Moerman 1986). The Delaware used an infusion of coneflower root for gonorrhea and found it to be highly effective.
The purple coneflower was the only native prairie plant popularized as a medicine by folk practitioners and doctors. It was used extensively as a folk remedy (Kindscher 1992). Purple coneflower root was used by early settlers as an aid in nearly every kind of sickness. If a cow or a horse did not eat well, people administered Echinacea in its feed.
Echinacea is widely used as an herbal remedy today. A purple coneflower product containing the juice of the fresh aerial parts of Echinacea purpurea was found to make mouse cells 50-80 percent resistant to influenza, herpes, and vesicular somatitis viruses. This product was available in Germany in 1978 (Wacker and Hilbig 1978). Perhaps the most important finding so far is the discovery of immuno-stimulatory properties in Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia (Wagner and Proksch 1985, Wagner et al. 1985). Stimulation of the immune system appears to be strongly influenced by dose level. Recent pharmacological studies indicate that a 10-mg/kg daily dose of the polysaccharide over a ten-day period is effective as an immuno-stimulant. Increases in the daily dosage beyond this level, however, resulted in “markedly decreased pharmacological activity” (Wagner and Proksch 1985, Wagner et al. 1985). Other research has shown that the purple coneflower produces an anti-inflammatory effect and has therapeutic value in urology, gynecology, internal medicine, and dermatology (Wagner and Proksch 1985).
Ornamental: The purple coneflower is often grown simply for its ornamental value, especially for its showy flowers. The best possibility for obtaining a new cultivar is in the hybrids between Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia var. angustifolia, whose progeny are compact, rounded, and bushy plants about two feet in diameter (McGregor 1968).
Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower or purple coneflower) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Echinacea of the family Asteraceae. Its cone-shaped flowering heads are usually, but not always, purple in the wild. It is native to eastern North America and present to some extent in the wild in much of the eastern, southeastern and midwest United States.
This herbaceous perennial is 120 cm (47 in) tall by 25 cm (10 in) wide at maturity. Depending on the climate, it blooms throughout spring to late summer. Its individual flowers (florets) within the flower head are hermaphroditic, having both male and female organs on each flower. It is pollinated by butterflies and bees. Its habitats include dry open woods, prairies and barrens, as well as cultivated beds. Although the plant prefers loamy or sandy, well-drained soils, it is little affected by the soil's pH.
E. purpurea is also grown as an ornamental plant, and numerous cultivars have been developed for flower quality and plant form. Unable to grow in the shade, it thrives in either dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought once established. The cultivar 'Ruby Giant' following has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
It can be propagated either vegetatively or from seeds. Useful vegetative techniques include division, root cuttings, and basal cuttings. Clumps can be divided, or broken into smaller bunches, which is normally done in the spring or autumn. Cuttings made from roots that are "pencil-sized" will develop into plants when started in late autumn or early winter. Cuttings of basal shoots in the spring may be rooted when treated with rooting hormones.
Seed germination occurs best with daily temperature fluctuations or after stratification, which help to end dormancy. Seeds may be started indoors in advance of the growing season or outdoors after the growing season has started.
One study shows E. purpurea has antidepressant properties in white rats as it increased the stimulating action of L-DOPA. Echinacea is believed by many people to stimulate the immune system. In indigenous medicine of the native American Indians the plant is used externally for wounds, burns, and insect bites, chewing of roots for toothache and throat infections; internal application is used for pain, cough, stomach cramps and snake bites.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Echinacea purpurea.|
- "Echinacea purpurea - (L.)Moench.". Plants For A Future. June 2004. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- Bruce Zimmerman. Echinacea: Not always a purple coneflower.
- "Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench (eastern purple coneflower)". PLANTS Profile. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Echinacea purpurea 'Ruby Giant'". Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- "SpringerLink - Journal Article". www.springerlink.com. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- Sadigh-Eteghad S, khayat-Nuri H, Abadi N, Ghavami S, Golabi M, Shanebandi D (2011). "Synergetic effects of oral administration of levamisole and Echinacea purpurea on immune response in Wistar rat". Res Vet Sci. 91 (1): 82–5. doi:10.1016/j.rvsc.2010.07.027. PMID 20797737.
- Wang L, Waltenberger B, Pferschy-Wenzig EM, Blunder M, Liu X, Malainer C, Blazevic T, Schwaiger S, Rollinger JM, Heiss EH, Schuster D, Kopp B, Bauer R, Stuppner H, Dirsch VM, Atanasov AG. Natural product agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ): a review. Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Jul 29. pii: S0006-2952(14)00424-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2014.07.018. PubMed PMID: 25083916.
- Amira M. K. Abouelella, Yasser E. Shahein, Sameh S. Tawfik, Ahmed M. Zahran. Phytotherapeutic effects of Echinacea purpurea in gamma-irradiated mice. [J. Vet. Sci., 8(4): 341-351 (2007)].
- Blanchan, Neltje (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
- FE Koen, "The Influence of Echinacea Purpurea On The Hypophyseal-Adrenal System;" Arzneimittel-Forschung 3 (1953): 133-137. 8.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Described in monograph by R. L. McGregor (1968); generally accepted (e.g., Kartesz, 1994 and 1999).
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