Friday, August 6, 2010

Purple Coneflower Area

Last year I mentioned the expanding population of Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, in a small clearing I created beside one of the prairie openings. This year I counted almost three times as many blooming plants as last year. Purple Coneflower is fast becoming a dominant species on this site.

The coneflower area was not cleared completely. My goal was to allow in enough sunlight to stimulate the plants to flower, scatter seed and increase in number. I wanted to leave enough trees to maintain the moist conditions favored by the coneflowers. The result has been very much what I wanted. It’s quite a good feeling to have things turn out just as planned. It doesn’t happen often.

Enough sunlight has entered the clearing to allow Purple Coneflowers to expand into the fringes of the uncleared areas. Doing some additional clearing ought to allow the population to increase even more. This is one of only two sites at Blue Jay Barrens that contains Purple Coneflower. The other site only has about a dozen plants and doesn’t have the same potential to expand.

The more open areas slightly uphill of the site tend to stay too dry for the coneflowers to persist. Without some shade, the coneflowers area would begin to look like the grassy area in the background. Now that I have a healthy population of Purple Coneflower, I can begin collecting seed to introduce into other suitable areas of Blue Jay Barrens.

Basal leaves of young plants almost cover the ground in this area. They represent a healthy influx of new plants resulting from seed falling from the mature plants. It usually takes about two years of growth before the plants will flower. In this picture are young seedling plants with only one or two leaves, on up to plants making their first attempt at producing a flower stalk. The broad mix of ages indicates a healthy population that is rapidly increasing in size.

The orange spikes growing out of the central disk are bracts associated with the individual florets of the flower head. The curled stigmas of the floret can be seen down between the bracts. The bracts must act as a beacon to attract pollinators.

This colorful guy perfectly compliments the pastels of the petals. He looks as though he was designed to sit on this flower. I wonder if he’s the one that chewed all those holes.

Those legs look slightly out of proportion to the body. I think I’ve taken pictures of a smaller version of this guy earlier this year. My references only deal with adult specimens so I may never know what species this is.


  1. I actually tried to grow purple coneflower some years ago and wasn't successful. I must have really put it in the wrong place because it grows everywhere else I look!

  2. Hi Steve...I really like the purple conefower and I am surprised they grow so well where it seems to be shaded!!
    I have some plants that do very well and bloom very nice but it is very discouraging because the Japanesse Beetles just love to eat the petals!! : {
    I really like that little green fellow...I can handle seeing bug like that even if he was a nibbler!!
    Have a great one... its another weekend !!

  3. Steve- Yes- Now all we need is a guide to insect nymphs! I've posted quite a few interesting unknowns to bug guide that go unidentified because they're just too young.


  4. Lois – There are some horticultural varieties of Purple Coneflower that are more demanding in their growing conditions. Maybe you had one of those. The closer you get to the wild type, the more extremes it seems able to tolerate.

    grammie g – If these were growing in full sun the petals would be a much darker color, but if these got too much sun it would be too dry for them to survive. I’ve used seed from here to grow plants for my prairie garden and those plants have a really dazzling color.

    Tom – A guide to insect nymphs would be great. Of course, someone would have to raise each species from egg to adult to get an accurate record of the developmental stages. That task could probably occupy the lifetimes of several people.