Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Friday, June 13, 2008

Clay and Limestone's Echinacea



Echinacea Tennesseensis and Echinacea purpurea grow in the Clay and Limestone gardens. Both are beautiful coneflowers that draw butterflies, bees, caterpillars and birds to the garden. While they look very similar there are subtle differences.

The flower of Tennessee Coneflower differs from other coneflowers in that the rays are
upturned with their sweet faces following the sun like sunflowers do. If you look closely you can see that
the color is richer than most other coneflowers. Don't you love the golden pollen? It's more pronounced on the Tennessee Coneflower.



E purpurea has the classic recurved petals... It is also a paler shade of purple. The leaves are ovate and opposite....while they are drought tolerant they really prefer moist, well drained alkaline soil.

Tennessee Coneflower Details:

Tennessee Coneflower is found naturally growing in five populations within a 14 mile radius in Middle Tennessee. It was the second plant ever listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (June 1979). It was first discovered in 1906 and the plant was thought to be extinct for half a century, until it was rediscovered in 1968 in Rutherford County near Nashville. It was probably the destruction of this site to build a trailer park that helped get this flower listed on the endangered species list*.

Because cedar glades were historically looked upon as worthless they have been bulldozed for roads and parking lots...The State of Tennessee is eagerly looking for property owners to add their cedar glades to the protected area list.

There are glade like areas all over Middle Tennessee...most don't qualify as cedar glades, but they do have glade like characteristics and some of the indigenous wildflowers. We have several near us and my yard has glade like pockets with some glade wildflowers...Unfortunately, Tennessee Coneflower only grows here because I planted it! But he seems to be happy.

This is one amazing plant

It is uniquely able to survive and thrive in the fantastically harsh environment of a cedar glade. If you've been here before you might remember that cedar glades are open and gravelly areas that are DRY in the summers and WET in the winters. Temperature extremes are a way of life for plants who live there. Imagine the heat of a concrete parking lot on a 98 degree summer day and you can imagine a cedar glade! The temperatures are probably closer to 110 degrees or more.

Tennessee Coneflower has a tap root rather than the fibrous roots of other Echinacea... it sends this tap root down into cracks in the exposed limestone to find soil and moisture. It does a good job because it thrives in the glade. Talk about drought tolerant!

Like other Echinacea, once established, Tennessee coneflower is drought tolerant, prefers full sun and well drained alkaline soil. Please don't fertilize this guy, that will only cause weaker stems...and think twice about moving it around...remember the tap root.

He grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Flowers are deep pink with pinkish green centered cones and the classic upturned petals. Aren't the triplets lovely?

The leaves are medium to dark green and narrowly lance-shaped. Tennessee coneflower adapts well to cultivation, just don't pamper it! It has reseeded in the garden and I am pretty sure it has crossed with E purpurea to create some sweet offspring. It is nearly impossible to keep Echinacea from cross pollinating...blame it on the bees!

In my garden:




Tennessee Coneflower is planted in the nearly native cedar glade garden with plants that can survive harsher conditions. The soil is not the best, and no fertilizer has been added. It's wet in winter and dry in the summer... like the cedar glade. It would be wonderful to be able to keep E tennesseensis, pure! But we'll have to wait to see what happens...they do co-mingle, you can't forget those busy bees.

Do try these lovely plants...they are becoming available at most nurseries and on the internet. Remember they aren't to be babied; just plant them in full sun and watch them follow the sun as it moves in the sky!

Gail

*It is against Federal law to remove this plant or its seeds from parks or nature centers. Only growers licensed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service may sell these plants in interstate commerce.

22 comments:

  1. Coneflowers are my favorite and the first perennial I ever planted. Enjoyed all these lovely photos of them; mine aren't blooming yet.
    On one post you mentioned the Tennessee coneflower, and I was wondering about this variety. Thanks for all the great information. I thought there was a native variety in Illinois, too; I'll have to do some research!

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  2. Rose,

    Isn't the internet wonderful...all the information we could want is just a search engine away! You have once again given me a terrific compliment...remembering a reference to an earlier post! Thank you.

    Gail

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  3. Great info on this coneflower. I call my self a Tennessean but never knew about this flower until now! Thanks for the education...

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  4. Skeeter,

    You are so welcome...and welcome to Clay and Limestone...I don't know if I ever gave you a proper welcome.

    Gail

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  5. joco said:

    good grief:in your first pic enlarged to 960, you have to feel sorry for a snail that has to climb that mountain ;-)

    Do these plants grow wild if it is your state flower?

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  6. joco,

    Snails don't make it to the top they are too busy eating the cute lower growing plants...but something occasionally nibbles on the leaves! Maybe it is snails..hmmm!

    Loved your site and am reading it all...

    Gail

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  7. I've got to plant more. Mine died out a few years ago. They are so beautiful.

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  8. The triplets are absolutelt majestic!

    Is this the week your son comes? If so have a GREAT visit and savor every mintue.

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  9. I love all coneflowers, and these are great too. I especially like those narrow petals. Good job on planting and promoting this overlooked variety.

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  10. I didn't know Tennessee had one unique to that area. Can't tell my Dad, he would want one. Cone Flowers are one of his favorites because they are attractive to butterflies and later birds. I like that silvery lavender color.

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  11. Phillip,

    Do get them Phillip, they are wonderful and easy care...remember they like alkaline soil so don't put them near your hydrangeas...except oakleaf it likes it sweet, too.

    Gail

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  12. jean,

    Hi...my son has been and gone, we had a great time, I wish he lived closer but he is having a good time in RI.

    Gail

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  13. roses and lilacs,

    Tell your dad....then surprise him with Rocky Top a hybridized TN Coneflower! Great gift for Pop's Day! Yes they do attract the birds, bees and butterflies!

    Gail

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  14. Pam.

    I imagine that TN coneflower would love your garden! Maybe I can beat the birds to the seeds and save some.

    Gail

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  15. What an interesting post about the difference between the flowers. Subtle, but different if you look closely. They are still lovely to look at though.

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  16. Gail, you always have the most informative posts. Who knew there were at least 2 varieties. If the wild one self sows half as well as the other then it shouldn't be long before it is growing all over Tenn. Now I'm not sure which one I like best.

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  17. I haven't seen the straight species of Tennessee Coneflower for sale around here. It is quite charming. I have loads of the other kind of Coneflower. I'm always pulling out seedlings all over both gardens.

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  18. Very informational. I never knew about this plant either until you said something about it last fall. Then the instructor in school talked about it. Not as much as you though so I am appreciative.

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  19. I have the commerically bred Tennessee coneflower and it is an amazing little flower !
    I have been collecting coneflowers for a few years and can't wait till they start showing off in a few more weeks !
    You got to love the coneflowers : )
    Joy

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  20. Perhaps a lot of us have affectionate feelings for coneflowers because they grew for us when we were new gardeners, giving us a little boost in confidence so we kept trying.

    Your Tennessee coneflowers do have sweet faces, Gail, but sure are tough plants. I knew nothing about them - you're educating your readers!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  21. Hi Gail, so glad you came by my place and now I've discovered yours and had a quick perusal ... enough to keep me coming back!

    What a fantastic post on some of my favorite flowers (ours will soon start blooming). I'd love to get my hands on a TN Coneflower and let it loose in our patch. We don't mind mutants, since we already have them in certain annual species such as Calendula and Celosias, who come back every year, just a bit different and odder.

    I, too, wonder if there's a native IA Coneflower now I'll have to research it a bit more, but E. purpurea is reputed to be a native species.

    Great stuff there, Gail!

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  22. Oops, forgot to add that when you mentioned the birds getting the seeds, we just let ours go in the fall because they do attract our State Bird, the Goldfinch! And we loooove goldfinches!

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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