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Published In: Methodus Plantas Horti Botanici et Agri Marburgensis, a staminum situ describendi 591. 1794. (4 May 1794) (Methodus) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

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71. Echinacea Moench (coneflower)

(McGregor, 1968; Binns et al., 2002)

Plants perennial herbs, with a usually elongated, vertical rootstock and often somewhat tuberous main roots (merely fibrous-rooted in E. purpurea), sometimes also with short, stout rhizomes. Stems erect or ascending, unbranched or few- to several-branched, with several longitudinal lines or ridges, variously hairy (glabrous elsewhere), usually roughened to the touch. Leaves basal and alternate, the basal and lower stem leaves long-petiolate, the petioles progressively shorter up the stem, the upper stem leaves sometimes sessile or nearly so, the bases usually only slightly expanded, those of the basal and lower stem leaves usually somewhat wrapping around the stem. Leaf blades simple, linear to lanceolate, elliptic, or ovate, tapered at the base (those of the basal leaves rounded to heart-shaped in E. purpurea), mostly tapered to a sharply pointed tip, the margins entire or irregularly toothed, the surfaces roughened-hairy, not glandular, with 3 or 5 main veins. Inflorescences of solitary terminal heads, the heads with long, bractless stalks. Heads radiate. Involucre broadly cup-shaped or saucer-shaped, the bracts in mostly 2–4 subequal, overlapping series. Involucral bracts about 17–30 (the innermost bracts grading into the chaffy bracts), narrowly lanceolate to lanceolate, the outermost bracts occasionally narrowly ovate, spreading to reflexed above the midpoint, green, the margins and outer surface roughened-hairy (glabrous elsewhere), not glandular (rarely a few sessile, yellow glands present in E. paradoxa), the midnerve inconspicuous. Receptacle strongly convex to conical, usually elongating somewhat as the fruits mature (also broadening somewhat as the fruits mature), with chaffy bracts subtending the ray and disc florets, these concave and wrapped around the florets, the sharply pointed, spinelike tips noticeably longer than the tips of the disc corollas, hardened (somewhat softer and leathery in E. purpurea), the apical portion orange to dark purple, persistent at fruiting. Ray florets 8–21, sterile (lacking stamens and style at flowering and with an ovary that is shorter and thinner than those of the disc florets, not developing into a fruit) or rarely a few pistillate, the corolla showy, relatively slender, spreading to drooping at flowering, pink, purple, or yellow, rarely white, not persistent at fruiting. Disc florets numerous (more than 200), perfect, inconspicuous (because of the overtopping chaffy bracts), the corolla pink, purple, yellow, or occasionally green, slightly bulbous-thickened at the base, not persistent at fruiting (but sometimes trapped by the subtending bract). Style branches with the sterile tip somewhat elongate and tapered. Pappus of the disc florets of a low rim or crown similar in color and texture to the fruit body, the margin slightly irregular and sometimes with 2–4 triangular teeth (at the angles of the fruit), persistent at fruiting. Fruits wedge-shaped in outline, slightly flattened and usually somewhat 4-angled in cross-section (3-angled in rare fruits of ray florets), more or less smooth, the surface glabrous (hairy elsewhere), tan to nearly white, usually with an abrupt, brown to dark brown region toward the tip, sometimes slightly shiny. About 9 species, U.S., Canada.

The rootstocks of Echinacea species are commercially important as medicinals. Native Americans used the plants to treat a variety of ailments ranging from snakebites to toothaches, burns, arthritis, rheumatism, swollen glands, and other pains (Moerman, 1998). McGregor (1968) discussed the more recent history of medicinal use, beginning with Meyer’s Blood Purifier, a tonic prepared from E. angustifolia by a Nebraska doctor named Meyer, who learned of the plant from local North American Indians during the 1880s. Because medical science was unable to substantiate the curative properties of the genus, the American Medical Association discouraged the use of Echinacea, but its use in homeopathic medicine flourished in Europe, particularly in Germany (Hobbs, 1989; Foster, 1991). Beginning in the 1940s, new research began to hint at various antibacterial and antiviral properties of the root extract. Today the plants are used to provide a nonspecific stimulant to the immune system, both as a general tonic and to ward off colds and other illnesses, and Echinacea extract can be found in many health-food shops and even grocery stores. Much of the research on the efficacy of the plants continues to occur in Germany (Bauer and Wagner, 1990), but clinical studies in the United States continue to offer somewhat contradictory findings. All five of the species present in Missouri have been utilized, but apparently E. pallida is the preferred species.

The international market for Echinacea roots has led to intense demand for wild-collected roots. In Missouri, the genus ranks among the most-collected by so-called root-diggers (individuals who supplement their incomes by harvesting a variety of natural products from local areas and selling these to distributors). The gradual elimination of these beautiful wildflowers from mile upon mile of the state’s roadsides was one of the main reasons for the enactment of laws restricting the collecting of plants from public highways in Missouri. Although much of the collection of rootstocks continues to take place legally on private property with landowner permission, managers of public lands such as state conservation areas and the state parks system have recorded numerous instances of unscrupulous individuals who have vandalized high-quality glades and prairies that were protected by state law for the preservation of native ecosystems and their enjoyment by all Missourians. Perhaps in part because of restrictions placed upon where Echinacea can be collected legally, some wholesalers have reported counterfeit coneflower roots collected from Parthenium species, which superficially resemble those of true Echinacea.

Species of Echinacea also are cultivated as ornamentals. All of the species growing in Missouri are available through wildflower nurseries to some extent, but only E. purpurea (and its cultivars and hybrids) currently is sold more widely in the general nursery trade. The fruiting heads also sometimes are used in dried flower arrangements and other craft projects.


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1 1. Leaf blades narrowly to broadly ovate, 1.5–5.0 times as long as wide, those of the stem leaves mostly short-tapered to more or less rounded at the base, those of the basal leaves often rounded or heart-shaped, the margins usually irregularly toothed ... 4. E. PURPUREA

Echinacea purpurea
2 1. Leaf blades linear to lanceolate or elliptic, mostly 5–20 times as long as wide, long-tapered to narrowly angled at the base, the margins entire

3 2. Ray florets with the corolla yellow; stems pubescent with appressed or ascending hairs ... 3. E. PARADOXA

Echinacea paradoxa
4 2. Ray florets with the corollas pink to purplish pink (rarely white); stems pubescent with spreading to loosely ascending hairs (species difficult to distinguish)

5 3. Ray florets with the corolla 2.0–3.5(–4.0) cm long, mostly spreading at flowering; pollen yellow when fresh (sometimes faded to pale yellow on herbarium specimens) ... 1. E. ANGUSTIFOLIA

Echinacea angustifolia
6 3. Ray florets with the corolla (3–)4–9 cm long, reflexed or drooping at flowering; pollen yellow when fresh or white

7 4. Pollen white ... 2. E. PALLIDA

Echinacea pallida
8 4. Pollen yellow when fresh (sometimes faded to pale yellow on herbarium specimens) ... 5. E. SIMULATA Echinacea simulata
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