Eastern purple coneflowers grow to be about 2 feet tall and are prized as garden plants and the herbal remedy echinacea. Due to its medicinal properties, over-harvesting caused it to become scarce in the wild, while its large purple blossoms make it popular in gardens.
Purple coneflowers grow to 2 feet tall. They have long stalks with rough leaves growing periodically on the stalks. The lower leaves grow more oval with rough serrated edges and the base of the leaves are heart shaped where they attach to the plant. The leaves on the stem are similar but grow smaller as they get higher up the stem.
One purple coneflower blossom grows at the top of each stem. They are purple with petals roughly 1 1/2 to 3 inches long. The center is round and about an inch across. The center of the flower gives the plant its scientific name, echino, from the Greek for hedgehog, the centers are brown and purple with spikes that resemble a hedgehog.
This plant grows on rocky prairies through the central United States from Texas to Michigan. It is now grown in many parts of the country as a garden plant.
Along with being a perennial with long lasting purple flowers, this plant is sought after for its medicinal properties. The purple coneflower produces echinacea. Farmers harvest the flowers to make herbal tea and the roots to make echinacea extract. Native plains tribes used the plant for medicinal purposes and passed the knowledge on to early pioneers.
Over-harvesting caused the coneflower to become scarce throughout most of its native range. It is still found in river bottoms, but most coneflowers are seen growing in domestic gardens and cultivated by farmers.