Compatible, Adaptable Coneflowers

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Published on: May. 16, 2013

1- to 3-foot-tall wildflower while taking a hike along a designated trail such as those within Caney Mountain Conservation Area in Ozark County. Here, yellow coneflowers may be found growing in association with other glade wildflowers and prairie grasses. As the summer sun beats down upon the bald knobs and rocky summits of the glade, field sparrows, prairie warblers, and collard lizards dart amidst the maze of sparse vegetation, hardy wildflowers, and dolomite stones.

Poach Not, Want Not

It is probable that back in Captain Clark’s day, all species of coneflowers were more abundant than they are today. Narrow-leaved coneflower, the species described in his historical travel journal, is found today growing naturally in Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. It is believed to have been introduced to our state and currently has a historical ranking in Missouri, with this coneflower being last documented by Viktor Muhlenbach in St. Louis County in the extreme eastern region of the state. Throughout North America it is uncommon to come upon the species, which prefers dry, rocky habitats adjacent to railroads. Adorned with pink flowers and bright yellow pollen, narrow-leaved Coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, superficially resembles other pink to purple coneflowers. It is only with careful scientific examination of entire plants that positive identification can be made.

Because of their acclaim as herbal remedies, Echinacea are often pursued by unscrupulous plant poachers who seek to sell the roots in the black market herbal trade. The illegal digging of wild stands of coneflowers leaves its ugly mark upon the landscape and robs both wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts of the plants’ outstanding qualities. Because of widespread abuse of Missouri’s Echinacea and many other native wildflowers, laws protecting wild growing populations have been enacted which make it illegal to dig plants from our roadways and public lands.

Echinacea, like all of our wildflowers, should never be dug from wild populations. Due to root structure and environmental nutrient associations, many native plants do not survive the stress of such a move. For those desiring coneflowers of their own, several of today’s nurseries carry not only Echinacea seed, but also first- and second-year perennial plants for your personal native garden collection.

Spring and early fall are the best times to work on a perennial bed of coneflowers. From seed, Echinacea take two years to bloom, but once established, perform delightful eye-catching displays for many years. They self-sow readily and also often

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