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

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ya Gotta Love This Coneflower

I certainly do...

Echinacea tennesseensis has
marvelous upcurving petals,
instead of recurving like Echinacea purpurea.
One is not more beautiful then the other, but,
Tennessee Purple Coneflower has a special place in my heart.

Seriously, who couldn't love a plant
that can survive the extremes of a cedar glade;
that can tolerate being underwater part of the year;
that can grow in limestone and
send its roots deep below the surface seeking water;
that can stand up straight and tall during the hottest,
driest summers we've experienced in years.

Tennessee Purple Coneflower is endemic to cedar glades and all naturally occurring populations are located within 14 miles of one another.
Right there in the blue.

Just three counties in Middle Tennessee support Echinacea tennesseensis.
When it was rediscovered in 1968 scientists worked to get it protected.
In 1979 it was placed on the
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.
For the past 30 years it's been studied and researched.
Scientists have examined its genetic uniqueness,
its reproduction and habitat range.
Meanwhile, conservation groups and government agencies have made headway
protecting and acquiring land that has TCP populations and,
educating Tennesseans about protecting this treasure.
Tennessee Purple Coneflower has survived and thrived.

This population of Tennessee Purple Coneflower
at the Couchville Cedar Glade
is estimated to be near 90,000

Now the agency charged with protecting it has recommended it be taken off the protected status list. They believe their goals have been reached and Echinacea tennesseensis no longer needs protection.

The following quote is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to remove the plant Echinacea tennesseensis(Tennessee purple coneflower) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants due to recovery. This action is based on a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial data, which indicate that this species' status has improved to the point that E. tennesseensis is not likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Our review of the status of this species shows that all of the threats to the species have been eliminated or significantly reduced, adequate regulatory mechanisms exist, and populations are stable. We also announce the availability of the draft post-delisting monitoring plan. This proposed rule completes the 5-year status review for the species, initiated on September 21, 2007.

Ya gotta love that, too.


PS If you want to grow this beauty,
then you need to plant it in the right conditions.

Full Sun, Full Sun, Full Sun

If you have any thoughts or concerns about recommendations to delist Tennessee Coneflower please contact

Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn:
Docket Number FWS R4 ES 2010 0059, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.


  1. This wildflower is so exquisite, dear Gail. I am glad the numbers of it are up. Seeing that many together must be heavenly. We have a few growing here, but they seem to be struggling without those huge underground plates of limestone in which to send their scouting roots. But there has been reseeding. :-)

  2. Frances, Reseeding is good! ~One issue with echinacea is their promiscuous behavior~We blame it on the bees....so offspring will have characteristics of nearby Echinacea purpurea unless there are no other coneflowers within bee flying distance! But, they are always charming looking with characteristics of both parents and then some! gail

  3. How wonderful Gail! That a plant so endangered could flourish again... it is thanks to gardeners like you. This is a great post and will enlist others to grow your lovely Tennessee Purple Coneflower... even if it is taken off the protected list. Your landscape shot of the field of Echinacea is spectacular! I too love its freely dancing petals reaching upwards towards the sky. ;>)

  4. What good news that a native is recovering. It seems I have only been hearing about invasives that are taking over. Thanks for a hopeful post.

  5. How wonderful that this delicate beauty is no longer endangered! You can take some share of the credit, Gail, for spreading the word and encouraging it to grow in your own garden. Now that I see its limited natural range, I don't feel quite so bad that I could never get it to grow here.

  6. It is a very pretty flower and sounds quite tough. Love the field view.

  7. It's heartening to hear that it has rebounded so well. I hope the powers that be aren't making a mistake.

  8. MMD, I worry, too. In fact I am writing to the F&WS to express concern about TN not being able to protect it in this pro-development at any costs legislature. gail

  9. Gail,

    I really want to get this going in my garden. Do you think the seeds in the stores and online are true Tennessee coneflower. They sell a Rocky Top echinacea but I'm afraid it might be a hybrid. I planted one from a seed this year but I'm not sure it made it through our summer. Anyway if you want to easily make more this fall take some root cuttings. Pencil thick roots about 4 inches long (probably smaller) will grow a new plant fairly easily for spring! It would be a great way to expand a true TN coneflower.

  10. Dave, I am not sure the seeds are real TN Coneflower and you're correct, Rocky Top is a hybrid. There are a few growers who will continue to have pure stock~Growild has them. When I go to their fall sale I'll grab one to propagate....If I'm at all successful I'll share with you! Thanks for the info. gail

  11. I have a Tennessee Cone flower plant that my neighbor patiently grew and shared with me. She is now deceased so this is my memory of her. It has grown very slowly and I hesitate to divide it lest I lose even a piece of it. I would love to know how to propagate from root cuttings. Dave, would you be willing to explain how it's done? Thanks,

  12. I love conservation success stories, and am so glad this lovely coneflower is thriving again.

  13. It's great that it's taken off the endangered list, and the efforts of gardeners like you can ensure that this species continues to thrive, even if it regresses to endangered status again in its wild habitats.

  14. Very beautiful flower and interesting about the limited habitat. Do you think it would grow in similar areas?

  15. Susan,

    Root cuttings are taken from the plant with about 3-4 inches of length. You want a good thickness to the roots so about a pencil thick is good but if it looks healthy and it's a bit smaller it may be fine. Take the cuttings and place in a container with soil/rooting medium. I've seen two different ways to do it - some vertically and others horizontally. I think it depends on the type of plant. Keep it moist but not soggy and wait for roots and foliage to eventually appear. If you have soggy soil it may completely rot. Rooting hormone used on the cut ends may help too! I'll be doing this in a few weeks when the weather is a cooler. Also you don't have to dig up the whole plant often you can just dig around it and find suitable roots.

  16. Hi Gail! (*waves*),

    I love the coneflower because it is easy to grow, reproduces without being invasive and is drought tolerant. The older I get the more I appreciate these qualities in my plants. Roses--uh, must go.

  17. Gail, YOU have probably nearly singlehandedly taken this plant off the protected list... you send everyone seeds! :-) I love my Tennesse Coneflowers... but they're not terribly in love with their conditions here. But they grew tall in their semi-shaded spot... and Mr. Shady just harvested a lot of seeds for his prairie. I hope they grow and thrive there. We're in their "outer reaches" as far as zone...

  18. Oh, very cool! I probably don't have enough sun to offer (and wouldn't be suprised if she wanted a little frost, special plants are often quite picky about growing conditions). But I'm just excited she's still around!

  19. This looks like one to look for, and it appears to be hardy up in Connecticut - added to the seed list!

  20. How wonderful they have made a Come Back! I am happy to see things taken off the endangered list with plants and animals. That means nature is hard at it, working for us and we for them. We can all live in harmony!!!

  21. Hi, Gail! I DO love this cone flower...all cone flowers, actually! Some of the new ones are SOOOOO cool! Not all are happy in my S Florida zone, though. I like the field of cones!!

  22. They're striking and lovely Gail, as are your wonderful photos.

    I hope they'll continue to thrive in their very limited native range. I can surely understand the concern about ending their protected status, when they're endemic to such a relatively tiny area.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson