Showy perennial with an unbranching stem arising from basal leaves, with a single, sunflower-like flower head. Disk flowers with spiny bracts; ray flowers rose-colored and somewhat drooping, 1½–3½ inches long. Pollen yellow. Blooms May–July. Basal leaves in a clump, strap-shaped, up to 12 inches long including the long stalks; stem leaves shorter and lacking stalks. Stems and leaves with stiff, spreading hairs. Fruits in a burrlike, dome-shaped head that blackens upon drying.
Similar species: Pale purple coneflower (E. pallida) has white, not yellow pollen, and has a more western range.
Height: to 3 feet.
Eastern and central Ozarks.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs in glades, tops of bluffs, savannas, edges and openings of dry upland forests, ditches, and roadsides. Like other showy coneflowers, it is a favorite of native plant and butterfly gardeners. Along with other flowers in the genus Echinacea, this plant is often targeted by unscrupulous "root collectors" who sell them to manufacturers of herbal medicines. Such vandalism is one reason laws were enacted restricting the collecting of plants from Missouri's public highways.
This and other Missouri species of Echinacea are threatened by harvest for the medicinal herb market. The rootstocks are commercially important as medicinals. Echinaceae is used mainly for treating the common cold, but researchers debate its efficacy.
The seeds of coneflowers are eaten by goldfinches, whose late-summer breeding (and chick-feeding) time corresponds with the abundant seed set of these and other sunflower-family flowers such as goldenrods, ironweed, and others.