Echinacea (Coneflower) Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance

The coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has long been a favorite in gardens across North America, thanks to their purple-pink blossoms, drooping around a large, seeded cone-like center. But this easy-to-grow native perennial is also imbued with meaning and offers multiple medicinal uses. Its lovely flowers attract a range of pollinators, and its seeds feed the birds in fall and winter. Read on to learn more about the meaning and symbolism of the Echinacea or coneflower.


The Meaning & Symbolism of Echinacea (Coneflower) – The Essentials

Thanks to their many medicinal uses, Echinacea or coneflowers are associated with health, strength, and healing. When given as a gift, a coneflower says “I hope you feel better.” Echinacea is the perfect choice of bloom for a get-well floral gift, to brighten up someone’s day when they’re on the mend, or to celebrate strength.


About Echinacea (Coneflower) Flowers

About Echinacea (Coneflower) Flowers

Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

Coneflowers belong to the Echinacea genus, which is a member of the daisy, or Asteraceae family. There are nine or ten species within the Echinacea genus. Most are known informally as coneflowers.

Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances

Coneflowers are herbaceous flowering plants. Growing two to four feet tall, they’re distinguished by their prominent central discs, which are cone-shaped and bristling with seeds.

The daisy-like flowers have a characteristic reflexive “droop,” making the central cone stand out even more. Narrow blossoms are arranged in a ray around the central, cone-like disk.

Echinacea foliage is dark green, with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Stems may be slightly hairy. Blossoms may be up to 4 inches in diameter and bloom in shades of purple, pink, white, yellow, or green, depending on the variety.

History & Origins of Echinacea Flowers

Native Americans prized coneflowers for their medicinal uses. When European colonizers arrived, they saw how useful the plants were to indigenous peoples, and took coneflowers back to Europe. The Swedish botanist Linnaeus classified the Echinacea genus in the mid-18th century, but at first, some coneflowers were classified as part of the Rudbeckia genus.

Over time, and with the advent of scientific advances in DNA testing, the Echinacea genus was determined to contain nine or ten species. Today, this genus contains what we think of as coneflowers.

Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars

Species identified in the Echinacea, include E. paradoxa or yellow coneflower, E. pallida or the pale purple coneflower, E. tennesseensis or Tennesee coneflower, E. angustifolia or narrow-leaf purple coneflower, and E. laevigata, an endangered species in some parts of the U.S.),

The most common seen in gardens and home landscapes is E. purpurea or the purple coneflower. This species grows to about 3.5 feet tall and blooms with purple-pink flowers.

A number of varieties have been developed from purple coneflower. These include:

  • ‘Alba’ has white blossoms
  • ‘Bright Star’ is a dwarf with rose-pink blossoms
  • ‘Frangrant Angel’ is aromatic
  • ‘Hot Papaya’ has bright red-orange rays
  • ‘Pow Wow’has drooping, pink petals
  • ‘Razmatazz’ boasts double blossoms
  • ‘Ruby Giant’ has huge, 7-inch blooms
  • ‘Sundown’ has large, deep orange blossoms
  • ‘White Swan’ has white, drooping petals

 Etymological Meaning

Echinacea comes from the Greek word ekhinos, which means sea urchin or hedgehog. This references the way the flowers’ seeds bristle out from their central disks.

What Regions are Echinacea (Coneflower) Native to?

What Regions are Echinacea (Coneflower) Native to?

Coneflowers are native to eastern North America. The plants’ natural range runs from Alberta, Canada in the north to Louisiana and Texas in the south, and from Ohio, the Carolinas, and Tennessee in the east to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the west.

When are Echinacea (Coneflowers) in Season?

Coneflowers bloom in most regions from June through August, with some lasting into early fall.


Uses and Benefits of Echinacea Flowers

Uses and Benefits of Echinacea Flowers

Native Americans long prized coneflower for its many medicinal uses. The plants were used topically to treat burns, wounds, and insect bites. An infusion of coneflower was used to treat snakebite.

After the arrival of colonists and settlers, the use of the plant for medicinal purposes became widespread. By the 1800s, Echinacea was a popular herbal remedy used to treat a broad number of ailments. In the 18th century and beyond, these plants were also used to treat livestock. When cows and horses weren’t eating well, they were fed Echinacea.

In the 1900s, coneflower was one of the most widely used herbal treatments. Echinacea is still a popular herbal treatment today. It’s used to support lymphatic, circulatory, and respiratory health and is a component in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s also used as a detoxicant and to stimulate the immune system.

In some European countries, it’s used as an anti-bacterial treatment, to treat colds and bronchitis, urinary tract infections, inflammation of the mouth, and to treat fevers.

In the U.S., echinacea is a popular dietary supplement. Research shows that coneflower can reduce the chances of catching a common cold. Studies also indicate that echinacea may have anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulant properties.


The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Echinacea

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Echinacea (Coneflower)

Echinacea flowers bloom in various colors, depending on species and variety. Hues range from purple to rosy pink, ruby red, deep orange, yellow, and white.

When it comes to flower meaning, different colors are often associated with different significance. For instance, white may stand for innocence and purity, while purple may stand for royalty, grace, and elegance. Pink is often associated with maternal love and femininity, orange with joy and enthusiasm, while yellow often stands for happiness, luck and success.

Of course, Echinacea flowers have their own specific significance. Due to their long association with healing and medicinal uses, coneflowers are often a symbol of health, wellness, and healing. This makes them a perfect flower to gift to someone who’s ill or recovering from a health issue.

Several Native American tribes assign special meaning to the coneflower. To the Ute, the flowers are associated with elk; it’s thought that elk seek out the “elkroot” when they need medicine. Some tribes also used coneflower in spiritual rituals.

Today, the coneflower is one of two “official wildflowers” in the state of Tennessee. While it’s deer and drought resistant, it attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Birds like goldfinches love to feed on the coneflower’s seeds.

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Coneflowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Coneflowers

Due to the coneflower’s association with health and wellness, it’s a perfect flower to include in get well soon bouquets. It’s also a lovely bloom to add to floral gifts when you want to portray well wishes or messages of strength.


Echinacea (Coneflower) Meaning FAQs:

What does an Echinacea flower symbolize? 

Due to their long history of medicinal uses in North America and Europe, Echinacea flowers are often associated with health and healing. They may also symbolize strength and well-being.

Are coneflower and Echinacea the same thing? 

Yes, echinacea and coneflower are the same. “Coneflower” is the common name for flowers in the Echinacea genus, which contains nine to 10 species of coneflower.

Are Echinacea lucky? 

Echinacea is associated with health, healing, strength, and well-being. All these positive attributes can certainly be associated with luck.

Is an Echinacea a flower of love? 

While coneflowers are most commonly associated with well-being and health, they’re a great way to send well wishes to someone you love.

Do Echinacea come back every year? 

Echinacea is a perennial, so they will come back each year. While the plants are relatively short-lived, they do drop lots of seeds, and new plants freely grow to replace the older plants.

How long do Echinacea flowers last? 

Echinacea flowers are relatively long-lasting. They bloom in summer and sometimes into the fall.

Do Echinacea flower more than once? 

Coneflowers often produce multiple flowers on a single stem. They will rebloom without deadheading, but you can deadhead using sterilized, sharp snips if you choose.


Echinacea Meaning and Symbolism – The Final Word

With its long history as a valuable medicinal plant, it’s no surprise that Echinacea has long been a landscape favorite. These lovely flowers, with their characteristic drooping petals, add beautiful color to the garden. They draw pollinators, feed birds with their seeds, and are easy to grow. Echinacea flowers carry the symbolic meaning and associations with health, healing, and wellness, making the coneflower a perfect gift to wish someone well.


Author

Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.

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