Terri Litchfield, Delaware County Master Gardener
What comes to mind when you picture coneflowers? Purple Coneflower? Orange Coneflower? Upright Prairie Coneflower? These three examples, all from the Aster family, Asteraceae, represent the three genera of plants native to Ohio with “Coneflower” in their common names. “Cone,” of course, is a reference to the center disk of the flower head.
ECHINACEAS: According to the USDA P.L.A.N.T.S. Database, Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is the only species of Echinacea native to Ohio while nationwide there are nine native species. This plant is also known by the following common names: snakeroot, Kansas snakeroot, narrow-leaved purple coneflower, scurvy root, comb flower, black susans, and hedgehog. Hedgehog seems a quite descriptive name for this particular coneflower and Echinacea comes from the Greek word for hedgehog. Plants are attractive to both nectar and seed seekers.
RUDBECKIAS: Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, is sometimes called Black-eyed Susan, and “Goldsturm” is a popular cultivar. Two other Rudbeckias also go by the common name Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta which is a biennial that self-seeds easily, and Rudbeckia triloba, also known as Brown-eyed Susan, which can grow to 5’. Two other native Rudbeckias which may be familiar to Ohio gardeners are Rudbeckia grandiflora (Tall Coneflower) and Rudbeckia laciniata (Cutleaf or Green-headed Coneflower).
RATIBIDAS: The two Ohio native Ratibidas are Ratibida columnifera (Upright Prairie Coneflower or Mexican Hat) and Ratibida pinnata (Pinnate Prairie Coneflower or Gray-headed Coneflower). Although from the same genus, these two species have quite different forms. Upright Prairie Coneflower grows 1-2’ in height while Gray-headed Coneflower can reach 5’.
One final species of a fourth genus of coneflowers native to states south of Ohio and further west is Dracopis amplexicaulis or Clasping Coneflower.
What do you think of when you hear “coneflowers”? Echinaceas, Rudbeckias, Ratibidas, and Dracopis are all Ohio or regionally native possibilities.