With Echinachea purperia, or purple coneflower, being prized for its medicinal purposes and value as a top pollinator in a butterfly garden, it is no wonder that some states, such as North Carolina, consider this wildflower to be an endangered species. With constant harvesting of this herbaceous perennial, the numbers of purple coneflower patches found growing wild in the United States is dropping rapidly. In fact, there are some organizations, such as the University of Minnesota, that have projects purely devoted to saving this wildflower from extinction.
Notice how small the butterfly appears in comparison to the coneflower.
The purple coneflower is well known for its usefulness in both butterfly and bee gardens. Because of the large showy blooms and the nectar they produce, pollinators such as bees and butterflies will often feed off of them. As the pollinators flit from flower to flower, they will collect seeds from the coneflower on their feet, and drop them on the ground, leaving them to germinate and form a new patch of flowers.
Along with pollination, the purple coneflower also produces rhizomes, a network of large fleshy roots that spread underground and eventually become independent from the original plant. This allows the coneflower to reproduce at distances from the parent plant.
An up close and personal look at the seedhead of the purple coneflower.
Additionally, the purple coneflower will self sow its own seeds after one year of growth. As the flower begins to die back, the seed head will dry out and fall to the ground. At this point, the seeds will either germinate where they have fallen, forming a new patch, or if weather conditions are right, the wind will carry them to a new spot, forming yet another patch several miles away.