Pale Purple Coneflower


Echinacea pallida

Aster family (Asteraceae)

Description: Plants up to 3' tall, with coarse, bristly hairs on the stout stems and leaves.  The leaves are rough-surfaced, up to 10" long and 1 1/2"wide, and tapering at either end, with several parallel veins running along their lengths.  The basal leaves are on long stalks, while the stem leaves are few, and usually lack long stalks.  There is a single showy flower head at the top of each stem, with many drooping, pale purple, petal-like ray flowers, each up to 3 1/2" long, surrounding a broad, purplish brown, cone-shaped central disk.

Late spring--midsummer.

Habitat/Range: Locally common and widely distributed in dry and mesic prairies and open savannas from southeastern Nebraska and north-central Iowa south and east to southwestern Arkansas and northwestern Indiana.  Farther east it is rare, with most populations representing escapes from cultivation.

Comments: A related plant, Narrow-Leaved Purple Coneflower (E. angustifolia), occurs in upland prairies throughout the western tallgrass region and westward; it is a shorter plant with smaller ray flowers and yellow pollen -- typical Pale Purple Coneflower has white pollen.  Some scientists think that the two types are varieties of a single species.  All of the Purple Coneflowers are used as medicinal plants by Native Americans.  There is still a market for the roots, which are used to make herbal medicines and tonics.  Illegal root digging poses a major threat to the plants in some areas.