Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
With its sharp coppery–orange cone spikes and its purple–pink drooping petals, this attractive native flower is a favorite on the prairie.
Coneflowers thrive in our sandy–loam soils and are especially plentiful the summer after a prescribed fire. They can bloom within two years of planting and provide a marvelous sight while other flowers species are still maturing.
The pale purple coneflower is a very showy flower, especially when planted in mass or with other flowers of contrasting color. This view looks eastward over the Gobbler Ridge unit at Clear Creek Knolls. Volunteer stewards, Bernie & Cindy Buchholz, planted this stretch of prairie in 2011. To read more about their decade of successful restorations, scroll to page 3 in the 2015 Prairie Smoke, the annual stewardship report for Nachusa Grasslands.
After 10 years of meticulous clearing, harvesting, planting, and invasive weed control, Gobbler Ridge and the Fame Flower unit are among the preserve’s highest quality restorations.
Many wildlife species benefit from the pale purple coneflower. The nectar in the blooms attract insects, such as butterflies and many native bees, while the birds (particularly Goldfinches) enjoy the seeds in the cone.
Hiking is encouraged throughout the Gobbler Ridge unit, with access from the Clear Creek Knolls parking lot. To find the entrance, look along the east side of Lowden Road, just south of Flagg Road. Hike east along the mowed lanes or walk into the prairie off–trail. Before hiking off–trail, you may want to read “What to expect off–trail” on our Hiking Guidelines website page.
The Thelma Carpenter unit is another nice spot in the preserve to see coneflowers. This hike is best reached from the visitor kiosk by taking Lowden Road north, then Stone Barn Road east and finally south on Carthage Road. There is pull–off parking in the grass. Please do not block any gates or roads. Hike along the mowed trails or hike up the hill (no trail) from the entrance sign. Visit our Hiking Destinations website page for more information.
Enjoy this early summer native flower!
Today’s author is Dee Hudson, a photographer and volunteer for Nachusa Grasslands. To see more prairie images, visit her website at www.deehudsonphotography.com.
Eugene Jones Baldwin
He is a journalist, fiction writer and blogger. He writes history pieces for the Alton Telegraph and is the author of "The Genehouse Chronicles," a collection of essays on nature, people and places along the Mississippi River.