Monday, July 27, 2009

Purple Coneflower

The Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, was the first plant I came across at Blue Jay Barrens that I knew belonged to the prairie.

This is where I saw it. From here I could see the bright lavender rays waving on a long stalk just to the right of that center cedar. That was twenty years ago and my field notes indicate about a dozen plants were growing in this area.

That particular plant is gone, but there are now many more. The rays show signs of predation. In a healthy ecosystem, something is always eating something else. I’d be worried if I saw plants that weren’t being chewed on.

I found quite a few plants growing in the shade. Without sunlight, the coneflower survives as a few basal leaves and rarely flowers.

This is one of those areas that contained many dozens of plants that didn’t flower. Five years ago I cut enough cedars to allow about 50% sunlight to reach the ground. The number of blooming plants increases each year.

I’m still evaluating this site. There are a lot of woody plants trying to grow here that could compete with the coneflowers. I’ll probably mow this area in the winter and remove a couple more cedars.

This is the part of the Purple Coneflowers that I most enjoy. This central disk looks like a fiber optics display.

When the plant is through and the seeds have been dropped, you are left with the cone. This was left from last season.

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