Echinacea – Echinacea spp.

Overall At-Risk Score: 44

Latin Name:

Echinacea spp.

Echinacea is a genus of 9 species, all of which are native to the U.S. These species are E. angustifolia, E. atrorubens, E. laevigata, E. pallida, E. paradoxa, E. purpurea, E. sanguinea, E. simulata, and E. tennesseensis.

Common Name:

Coneflower; Purple Coneflower

Family:

Asteraceae (Aster, Daisy, or Sunflower Family)

Lifespan:

Perennial

Reproduction:

Flowering from early to late summer, this genus of wildflowers can reproduce rather prolifically under the proper conditions. Dense seed heads form in the center of the flower, where the hard seeds attract finches and other seed-eating birds that then go on to disperse them.

These flowers also have a moderately high rate of vegetative reproduction, as the rhizomes and taproots can bud off of new plants.

Geographic Region:

Echinacea plants are found in nearly every state east of the Rocky Mountains, with the exception of New Hampshire and Vermont. They’re also found in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.

Habitat:

Coneflowers are commonly found in sunny open roadsides, prairies, and meadows, though they can also sometimes be found in open woodlands with filtered sunlight. Echinacea is an incredibly drought resistant genus when compared to other forbes, and can be found in places where most plants have issues thriving.

Vulnerability of Habitat/Changes of Habitat Quality and Availability:

Relying on healthy, open grasslands and prairies means that this genus of wildflowers is often at risk of habitat loss due to the expansion of livestock pastures and increased agricultural development in prairie regions.

Ability to Withstand Disturbance and Overharvest:

A common issue in wild-harvested Echinacea is that most species end up being listed as E. angustifolia, which is the most common of the Echinaceas in the natural medicine world. When this occurs to plants with an already limited geographic region, like E. atrorubens, E. paradoxa, E. sanguinea, and E. tennesseensis, it puts them at an even greater risk.

Status of Endangered/Threatened(by state):

  • E. laevigata (Smooth purple coneflower) is “Federally Endangered”, and is “Extirpated” in Pennsylvania.
  • E. pallida (pale purple coneflower) is “Threatened” in Tennessee and Wisconsin.
  • E. paradoxa (Bush’s purple coneflower/Bush’s yellow coneflower) is “Threatened” in Arkansas, which, notably, is one of only 4 states the flower is found in.
  • E. purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) is “Endangered” in Florida, and “Probably Extirpated” in Michigan.
  • E. sanduinea (sanguine purple coneflower) is “Threatened” in Arkansas. Like E. paradoxa, Arkansas is one of only 4 states this flower can be found in.
  • E. simulata (wavyleaf purple coneflower) is “Threatened” in Tennessee.
  • E. tennesseensis (Tennessee coneflower) is “Federally Endangered” and can only be found in a few counties in Tennessee.

Echinacea spp. Has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

Historically, the Native Americans used parts of Coneflowers as a remedy for toothaches and other mouth pain. It was also used in the treatment of burns and headaches, and was applied to snakebites. Currently, Echinacea (usually E. angustifolia) is sold as an “immune booster”.

Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:

Often misidentified and lumped in with E. angustifolia, one of the most sought after of the Echinacea family, many of the other species of Echinacea are harvested and sold due to the growing wild-harvested market of E. angustifolia.

Recommendations for Industrial and Home Use:

As with all plants listed on the Species-At-Risk List, United Plant Savers highly recommends you only use cultivated resources and consult your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements.

Potential alternatives that have been suggested include marsh mallow, boneset, and astragalus. Spilanthes has been used to replace the herb’s potential antibacterial, antiviral, immunostimulating, and antifungal effects. Burdock is antibacterial for bacteria classified as gram-positive, and thyme has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

Citations

  • EFloras, (n.d.), Echinacea in Flora of North America, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved August 14, 2019, from http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=111203
  • Gilmore, Melvin R., 1919, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, SI-BAE Annual Report #33, page 131
  • Hart, Jeff, 1992, Montana Native Plants and Early Peoples, Helena. Montana Historical Society Press, page 38
  • Johnston, Alex, 1987, Plants and the Blackfoot, Lethbridge, Alberta. Lethbridge Historical Society, page 56
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, (2016, February 3), Plant Database: Echinacea angustifolia, Retrieved August 14, 2019, from https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ecan2
  • USDA, (n.d.), Plants Profile for Echinacea (purple coneflower), Results compiled from multiple publications, Retrieved August 14, 2019, from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ECHIN