It shimmers in the sun, colourful and elegant: when the magnificent Coneflower is in bloom, you know it’s high summer.
The heart of the Coneflower (officially called Echinacea) is spectacular, and appears to lift out of the flower as it blooms. This is a herbaceous plant from the Aster family with a long, elegant stem, and because the petals droop a bit, it looks just like a sun hat. The Coneflower is an easy plant, can cope well with being a little dry and reaches an average height of 90cm.
Fantastic butterfly buffet
The ancestral form is the Echinacea purpurea, which derives its name from the purple petals. Breeding has produced a far wider choice nowadays, from pale yellow to purple, from salmon pink to white, and from orange to green. There is also an even greater variety of flower shapes, from single-flowered through to filled hearts. The flowers also work extremely well as cut flowers and can even be dried. A coneflower produces an attractive honey scent that attracts bees, butterflies and other insects.
Little Plant on the Prairie
The Coneflower originates from North America, where it grew on the dry prairies of southern states and later also occurred in the deciduous forests in the west and centre of the United States. Native Americans used the plant for centuries to fight infections. The first plants came to Europe in the 17th century with returning emigrants. Here it is a classic border plant, although in recent years it has also become more common as a container or potted plant.
The Coneflower is credited with medicinal properties, particularly for colds and flu, but there is no firm scientific evidence of this.
The name 'Echinacea' comes from the Latin word 'ekhinos' meaning 'hedgehog', which refers to the flower’s spiky heart.