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Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

An attractive North American daisy, Echinacea purpurea has been in cultivation for over 200 years.
Echinacea purpurea flower

Echinacea purpurea flower

Species information

Scientific name: 

Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench

Common name: 

eastern purple coneflower, purple coneflower, echinacea, snakeroot

Conservation status: 

Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Rocky open woodlands; occasionally in prairies.

Key Uses: 

Medicine, ornamental.

Known hazards: 

Preparations containing Echinacea species have a long history of safe use, but rarely some people may experience immediate allergic reactions of varying severity.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Asterales
Family: 
Compositae/ Asteraceae
Genus: Echinacea

About this species

Echinacea purpurea is a member of the daisy family (Compositae) or Asteraceae (APG III, 2009). The generic name comes from the Greek word for hedgehog (echinos) inspired by the spiky projections in the centre of its flower head in the seed stage. The specific epithet purpurea refers to the purple colour of the flowers.

Echinacea purpurea was previously placed in the genus Rudbeckia, so appears in historical literature under the synonym Rudbeckia purpurea. Members of the genus Rudbeckia always have yellow or orange ray-florets (the outer parts of the flower head) whereas the ray-florets of Echinacea flowers are normally pink, purple or white. An exception is E. paradoxa variety paradoxa, which has yellow ray-florets. Selected hybrid lines of this species have bred to have yellow to orange-red flowers.

Uses

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Cultivated as an ornamental in temperate areas, Echinacea purpurea is also grown for cut flowers by those who appreciate its large, late summer daisies with their prominent, orange cone.

Although the related species E. angustifolia was the most widely used medicinal plant by the Native Americans of the Great Plains, the rhizome of E. purpurea has also been employed in Native American medicine. European research on the effectiveness of Echinacea-containing products has primarily involved E. purpurea, and more than 800 products containing it (and to a lesser extent E. angustifolia) are marketed in Germany alone. Medicines made using Echinacea species have been shown to have antiviral effects and to stimulate the production of white blood-cells and are marketed as products to relieve the symptoms of colds and to aid wound-healing.

The fresh juice of the above-ground parts of E. purpurea has also been approved in Germany for use in restoring damaged tissue and for assisting the human body in fighting infection. Controversy remains over the effectiveness of Echinacea preparations in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections, and research in this area continues.

Synonym: 

Rudbeckia purpurea L.

Genus: 
Echinacea

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