Tom's Blog

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Great year for Echinacea pallida!

Whether it's the rains, or some strange legacy from last year's drought, pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) is having a banner year. This year areas where in the past we have seen only a few plants have dozens of flowering stems. Even areas where we have never seen plants before are full of flowers. And right now this species is at its peak.

Although this species is considered Threatened in Wisconsin, it seems to be surprisingly easy to grow. Because it is showy, it is almost always included in prairie seed mixes. We have used it in every prairie we have planted at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, and it has always become established. We have also been able to establish it from seeds in open savannas. In some areas it has spread on its own by self-seeding.

Our most dramatic area is shown in the photo below. This is at the edge of the dry prairie remnant near the overlook at the top of the south-facing slope. For about 10 years ago we have had a few plants growing here from seeds, but this year there has been an explosion. Why now? One possibility is that the few plants here have been self-seeding the area and this year conditions have been just right for an explosion.

Large patch of pale purple coneflower at the top of the south-facing slope

Nice show of pale purple coneflower in the Valley Prairie


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