Purple Coneflower: Pollinator Favorite

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in fall, pollinators, Unmowed Blog | 0 comments

Purple coneflower is a blast of purple in the garden.purple coneflower It’s a native American plant, although it’s really more of a prairie dweller, actually seeming a little out of place in my shady upstate New York garden. But it’s a hardy sort, very drought-resistant–give it a sunny corner, and it will reward you with a spectacular fringe of purple petals surrounding a central cone. The cone is like a spiky pincushion, so bristly that Echinacea, its scientific name, is very apt–it comes from a Greek word meaning hedgehog.

Despite its spiky nature, coneflower is constantly surrounded by pollinators. Not just honey bees, but some of the less-noticed pollinators: bumblebees, small wasps, beetles, flies. It’s also a favorite with butterflies, since it has a lot of nectar, and especially because the flat disk offers a nice landing pad for big-winged, klutzy butterflies, who can’t  hover like hummingbirds in front of a nodding jewelweed or fuschia.purple coneflower

There are actually several species of coneflower–Echinacea purpura being the most common.

Under its formal alias, Echinacea, coneflower is known as a banisher of colds and flu. Like all herbal remedies, its efficacy is hotly debated but there does seem to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that it really works.

For more on pollinators and the unlikely plants they love, check out my books:

In Praise of Poison Ivy: The Secret Virtues, Astonishing History, and Dangerous Lore of the World’s Most Hated Plant. Identification, tips for healing the itch, and why birds love PI–everything (and more) that you ever wanted to know about poison ivy.

Leaflets Three, Let It Be! A picture book for pre-K to Grade 3, to help the youngest explorers enjoy nature safely.

echinacea coneflower


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