Echinacea purpurea Moench
Echinacea purpurea (= Rudbeckia purpurea), commonly known as Purple Cone Flower, is a short-lived perennial whose cultivars show a wide range of colours and are valuable for bedding and as cut flowers.
Echinacea purpurea was already described by Carl Linnaeus under the name Rudbeckia purpurea. It was not until 1794, however, that Conrad Moench reclassified it into todays valid botanical systematics and gave it the name Echinacea purpurea. The name Echinacea is derived from ancient Greek echínos [ἐχῖνος] which means sea urchin. It refers to the spiny disc florets that overtop the soft ray florets.
The perennials grow to a height of approximately 1 to 1,5 meters depending on the cultivar. They have an erect habit with stiff, hairy and only slighty branched stems. They grow at a moderate rate and are considered short-lived. It seems that in their native habitat (mostly prairies) selfseeding has proven a better survival strategy than sitting in out.
Echinacea purpurea is a decidious plant with simple, mid green leaves that are rather coarse and usually have serrulate, sometimes entire margins. The basal leaves are ovate-lanceolate and can be up to 10 centimeters wide and 15 centimeters long. The cauline leaves are peliolate and arranged opposite one another. They are ovate with a pointed apex.
 Flowers and Fruit
The flowerheads are born solitary on long stalks and appear from July through to September. The neuter ray florets are pink to purple in the species whereas the colours in cultivars range from crimson over wine red to pink and white, and of late also orange and yellow. The throats of the 200 to 300 disc florets are longer than the tubes thus forming the conscipious urchin spikes particular to the genus Echinacea. They are orange to maroon, in cultivars also yellow or greenish white. The bisexual, fertile disc florets are pink to reddish purple, and again may be yellow to greenish white in cultivars. The pollen is usually yellow.
The black fruits are achenes. They develop in summer.
 Root System
The perennials have black taproots.
Echinacea purpurea is native to the Northeast of the US, the central Northeast of the US and the Southeast of the US where it occurs mostly on prairies and in open woods and thickets.
The Purple Cone Flower prefers a sunny site and can withstand temperatures down to -40º C. It grows best in pebbly, loamy soil that is moderately moist. The plants are only slightly drought tolerant. They will not grow in anaerobic soils and are only slightly tolerant of limy conditions.
A classic for the cottage garden the plant does well in flowerbeds, as a pot plant or in wild gardens. Both the flowers and the seed head are excellent cut flowers. Good plant companions are for example Erigeron, Gypsophila, Monarda and clumpforming grasses.
Allegedly Echinacea purpurea was already used as a medicinal plant by the Native Americans who used it to treat coughs and bruises. Nowadays it is widely used in pharmaceuticals since some of its agents are supposed to stimulate the immune system.
Please read the health issues note!
 Maintenance and Propagation
You can try to prolong the lifespan of the plants by dividing them in spring and by cutting them back after flowering to about 15 centimeters above ground. Some compost in spring may also help.
Most cultivars have to be propagated vegetatively. This can be done by dividing them in spring although taking root cuttings usually yields better results. Unfortunately some of these cultivars are sometimes sold as seeds (under the same name).
Generative propagation of cultivars that will grow true from seed is very simple: sow in spring in a greenhouse at temperatures of ca. 15°C.
Purple to white: some may be propagated by seed.
 Pests and Diseases
Leaf spots indicate a bacterial or fungal disease. Bacterial spots are somewhat angular with a yellow border. Fungal spots are usually more or less orbicular with fruiting bodies. Remove and destroy the affected parts and, if the disease is a fungal one, apply a fungicide.
- Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
- Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.
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