One in a series highlighting our favorite pollinator plants:
ECHINACEA – The Coneflowers!
Echinacea is a small genus within the sunflower family (Asteraceae). There are just 9 species, which we refer to as coneflowers.
They have daisy-like flowers with pink, purple, white, or yellow ray florets surrounding a dark central disk. They are mostly found in the central and south-eastern United States. Some species occur more easterly, others north into central Canada.
Native Range of Echinacea
Almost all wild Echinacea species thrive in our gardens in the mid-Atlantic region. They are highly valuable to our insect community. These are plants of prairies, meadows, and other open habitats, and often grow alongside warm season grasses and other wildflowers.
Hybrid Forms vs Wild Type
There are many hybrid Echinacea on the market with unusual colors and flower forms, including double flowering types. Many of these hybrid varieties do not serve pollinators in the same way that wild-type (straight species) do, and therefore are less valuable to our ecosystem. Some lack vigor and die in harsh winters.
Consider planting Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Echinacea pallida (pale purple coneflower) or other wild Echinacea to maximize your garden’s value to pollinators and other wildlife.
We do offer some “pollinator-approved” named varieties and selections. Nearly all species of Echinacea serve as potential host plants for the larvae of the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly and several moths including the wavy-lined emerald and the sunflower moth.
Aside from a myriad of pollinating insects, the nectar-rich flowers of coneflowers are also very attractive to ruby-throated hummingbirds. Once flowers have faded, and seeds have ripened, songbirds such as American goldfinches forage the spent heads and eat the seed.
Here are some of the many insect pollinators Echinacea species support:
- long-tongued bees
- digger bees
- leaf-cutting bees
- carpenter bees
- normadine cuckoo bees
- bee flies
- halictid and short-tongued bees
- green metallic bees
- butterflies and skippers
- sulfurs and whites
- silvery spotted skipper
Our Favorite Coneflowers
Echinacea pallida. Sun to part shade, easy. Tolerates Deer, Drought, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil. Delicate downward turning pale pink petals.