Tom's Blog

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Another good year for pale purple coneflower

The year 2013 was a great year for pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and 2015 seems to be another good year.

Pale purple coneflower patch on a dry lime prairie site, 2015.

The photo here shows the large population that has developed at what we call the "Far Overlook", Unit 5A. At this area, dolomite is very near the surface, leading to the formation of high-lime soils. This is thus a typical dry lime prairie area.

Although Echinacea was not present here before restoration began, there were only a very few plants here until 2013, when the site really blossomed! There were lots fewer plants last year (2014), but this is another boom year.

Although E. pallida is considered a Threatened species in Wisconsin, it is very easy to get established in planted prairies. Also, its seed is cheap, so most seed mixes have large amounts of this species.

There is another species, E. purpurea, that is sometimes planted. Although this is also native to the U.S., it is apparently not native to Wisconsin. However, many years ago it was planted at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in the Curtis Prairie restoration, where it became well established and may have become a seed source for prairie plantings elsewhere. Its seeds may even "contaminate" seed mixes of E. pallida. In fact, small amounts of E. purpurea have appeared in some of the prairie and savanna plantings at Pleasant Valley Conservancy.

A few plants of Echinacea purpureum have been found growing
at Pleasant Valley Conservancy
Nonflowering plants of the two species can be distinguished because the leaves of E. purpurea are broad whereas those of E. pallida are narrow.

Some "purists" in southern Wisconsin work hard to eradicate E. purpurea from their prairie plantings, treating it like a weed, although I think this is carrying things a little too far.


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