Endangered Echinacea? Assessing the Threat to Coneflowers

Coneflowers are some of America’s most iconic wildflowers. These beautiful perennials cover swathes of the central and eastern United States. But not every type of coneflower is thriving. In this article, we’ll answer whether coneflowers are endangered.

Are Coneflowers Endangered?

Are Coneflowers Endangered?

Are Coneflowers Endangered

There are ten recognized species of coneflowers within the Echinacea genus. Most of these species are common across central and eastern regions of North America. However, one species – the smooth purple coneflower (Echinacea laevigata) was listed as Federally Endangered until recently.

Smooth purple coneflowers grow only on the Piedmont plateau in the eastern United States. This species inhabits open areas in forests created by wildfires. It’s also found on roadsides across the region. Smooth purple coneflowers prefer specific soils containing lots of calcium and magnesium.

Smooth purple coneflowers are mainly Endangered due to deforestation and habitat loss. It’s estimated that two-thirds of the population has been lost since the plant’s discovery.

But thanks to conservation work, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently reclassified smooth purple coneflowers as Threatened rather than Endangered. Smooth purple coneflowers had previously been Federally Endangered since 1992.

Although smooth purple coneflowers are still at risk, other varieties are also struggling. Pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) are Threatened in Tennessee and Wisconsin, while yellow coneflowers (Echinacea paradoxa) are Threatened in Arkansas. Tennessee coneflowers (Echinacea tennesseensis) were once classed as Endangered but have recovered thanks to conservation efforts.

How to Care for Coneflowers

How to Care for Coneflowers

Coneflowers are low-maintenance perennial wildflowers that benefit both gardeners and wildlife. Thankfully, coneflowers are easy to grow and live for several years. Coneflowers bloom every year for approximately six to eight weeks from mid-July to October, creating stunning summer and fall displays.

Most types of coneflowers thrive in sun-baked, open grasslands and prairies across their native range. Plant coneflowers somewhere that receive six to eight hours of full sun every day. They can also tolerate partial shade during the afternoons, especially in hot climates.

Coneflowers are drought-tolerant, so you shouldn’t need to water established plants. Water young or recently-planted coneflowers once a week until they become established. Water established coneflowers weekly during long periods of drought.

They also thrive in loose, well-draining soils that lack nutrients. If the soil contains too many nutrients, coneflowers lose out to grasses and other plants. Grow coneflowers in chalky, loamy, or sandy soils. If you’re growing these flowers in pots, mix some compost and grit or sand to improve drainage.

Provide good growing conditions to protect coneflowers from diseases and pests like powdery mildew or aphids. Although coneflowers are deer-resistant, rabbits will consume coneflowers. Protect your coneflowers from herbivores using companion plants or barriers like fences or chicken wire.

Wrapping Up

Most coneflower species are not considered to be endangered. Smooth purple coneflowers and Tennessee coneflowers have previously been listed as endangered. However, both species have recovered thanks to conservation efforts. Some coneflower species are still listed as Threatened in some states, including pale purple coneflowers and yellow coneflowers.

For more, see our in-depth guide on how to grow coneflowers in your garden and the best companion plants for coneflowers.

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