CPC Plant Profile: Smooth Purple Coneflower
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Plant Profile

Smooth Purple Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata)

This shot shows a group of smooth coneflowers in bloom. Photo Credit: Rob Gardner
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • State: GA, NC, PA, SC, VA
  • Nature Serve ID: 147692
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 05/28/1986

Smooth-purple Coneflower is an herbaceous perennial closely related to the common Purple Coneflower. The leaves of Smooth-Purple Coneflower, which are never cordate (heart shaped), distinguish the two in the field. It is a rhizomatous perennial herb with a fleshy rootstock and coarse, lanceolate, scabrous basal leaves. It grows up to 1.5 m tall and the stems are smooth with few leaves. Flower heads are usually solitary. The ray flowers are light pink to purple and usually drooping. Disk flowers are very dark purple and tubular. Since the discovery of the species, more than half of the known populations have been destroyed, mainly because of agricultural clearing and residential and industrial development. (USFWS 1995) Smooth-Purple Coneflower has historically always been a rare plant. Its habitat is restricted to open sites with low competition. Prior to European settlement, forest openings were more common. Such openings were most likely maintained by fire and large grazing mammals. Neither of these forms of disturbance is a significant factor in modern times. As a result, acceptable habitat for species requiring such conditions is greatly diminished. There are a total of 23 extant populations of this attractive plant, 13 of which are in decline and only one of which is increasing.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/13/2020
  • Propagation Research

Since 2000, SBG has grown more than 1,500 plants; planted 1,000 plants and sown 3,700 seeds directly into the wild (6 natural populations, 4 new safeguarding sites on protected lands).

  • 10/13/2020
  • Demographic Research

One game changer is the GPCA Safeguarding Database provided by the Atlanta Botanical Garden that tracks data such as ex-situ population, in-situ introductions for safeguarding, augmentations, work parties, monitoring numbers, seeds collected, fire management, shape files for populations, etc.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Reintroduction

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG) currently works in collaboration with Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) which is comprised of 47 organizations all contributing intellectually in the recovery effort with 9 organizations routinely supporting in the field. Population sites that are the focus of this reintroduction are located in the Habersham County and Stephens county of the Northeast area of Georgia and are on forest service lands. Back in the nineties, Echinacea laevigata (Smooth Coneflower) was dwindling to extinction as a result of annual roadside maintenance often scraping off the adult plants as well as the poaching of entire seed heads from these roadside populations. SBG was contacted by State botanists and Federal partners with the need to remove plants from roadside habitats and replant uphill in a canopy forest/woodland habitat away from the roads. It took GPCA three years to obtain a federal permit to collect seeds. The agency then requested a study to prove this project could work in Georgia, in Georgia soils, and in a Georgia situation. This study was then conducted with graduate student Heather Alley as the lead. With her Master's thesis demonstrating that endangered plants could be grown from seeds and successfully replanted in safeguarding sites she was able to change the way Echinacea laevigata conservation was implemented in Georgia. She proceeded to publish her study and then more permits were granted. Since 2000, SBG has grown more than 1,500 plants; planted 1,000 plants and sown 3,700 seeds directly into the wild (6 natural populations, 4 new safeguarding sites on protected lands). One of the lessons learned is that hand clearing to open habitat and create a woodland setting is extremely hard work but fortunately personnel from zoos, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and State and Federal agencies show up and work diligently year after year. The use of frog-egging (SBG's technical term for putting out plants for introductions and safeguarding), micrositing, monitoring, and adaptive management techniques will continue. SBG is still in the process of refining micrositing by addressing the issue of where to place plants in relation to steep slopes, rain flow and riverlets, and exposed rock habitat. Echinacea laevigata plants ex-situ works but still has problems - hybridization concerns exist so it is not the favored process for holding plants, winter rotting in plants, and collecting seeds in-situ and growing annually for outplanting when rains break in (ever later and later) each fall. Another issue is the need to get creative during epic droughts when hand watering is necessary via core GPCA and volunteers carrying 40lb bladder bags up steep slopes in the dead of summer. One game changer is the GPCA Safeguarding Database provided by the Atlanta Botanical Garden that tracks data such as ex-situ population, in-situ introductions for safeguarding, augmentations, work parties, monitoring numbers, seeds collected, fire management, shape files for populations, etc. There are years when it is necessary to pause planting (frog-egging) and stop seed collecting until the habitat restoration catches up. This allows the Forest Service along with teams of agency partners to conduct woody removal, herbicide treatments, and prescribed burns ultimately creating beautiful woodlands. A valuable lesson learned is that the reintroduction project has been very species focused but instead needs to broaden to habitat restoration for woodlands, comparison plants, and support insects and birds. Expanding the plant community includes Georgia Aster, Fraser's Loosestrife, and Curly Heads. The biggest news is that the Forest Service is expanding the recovery of woodlands habitat with the creation of the US Forest Service Foothills Landscape Project. This will open significant appropriate sites possibly hundreds of acres of woodland habitant which may take place as soon as 2020. This is indeed a welcomed shift in mentality. (Ceska et al. 2018)

  • 10/13/2020
  • Seed Collection

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG) currently works in collaboration with Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) which is comprised of 47 organizations all contributing intellectually in the recovery effort with 9 organizations routinely supporting in the field. SBG shares seeds and techniques with the North Carolina Botanical Garden which also maintains seed banking for SBG.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Living Collection

Both seed and plants of Smooth-Purple Coneflower are being maintained at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in addition to the seeds being stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Both seed and plants of Smooth-Purple Coneflower are being maintained at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in addition to the seeds being stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Both seed and plants of Smooth-Purple Coneflower are being maintained at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in addition to the seeds being stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory. SBG shares seeds and techniques with the North Carolina Botanical Garden which also maintains seed banking for SBG.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Seed Collection

Both seed and plants of Smooth-Purple Coneflower are being maintained at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in addition to the seeds being stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory.

Elvia Ryan
  • 07/30/2018

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG) currently works in collaboration with Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) which is comprised of 47 organizations all contributing intellectually in the recovery effort with 9 organizations routinely supporting in the field. SBG shares seeds and techniques with the North Carolina Botanical Garden which also maintains seed banking for SBG.  Population sites that are the focus of this reintroduction are located in the Habersham County and Stephens county of the Northeast area of Georgia and are on forest service lands.  Back in the nineties, Echinacea laevigata (Smooth Coneflower) was dwindling to extinction as a result of annual roadside maintenance often scraping off the adult plants as well as the poaching of entire seed heads from these roadside populations.  SBG was contacted by State botanists and Federal partners with the need to remove plants from roadside habitats and replant uphill in a canopy forest/woodland habitat away from the roads.  It took GPCA three years to obtain a federal permit to collect seeds.  The agency then requested a study to prove this project could work in Georgia, in Georgia soils, and in a Georgia situation.  This study was then conducted with graduate student Heather Alley as the lead.  With her Master's thesis demonstrating that endangered plants could be grown from seeds and successfully replanted in safeguarding sites she was able to change the way Echinacea laevigata conservation was implemented in Georgia.  She proceeded to publish her study and then more permits were granted.  Since 2000, SBG has grown more than 1,500 plants; planted 1,000 plants and sown 3,700 seeds directly into the wild (6 natural populations, 4 new safeguarding sites on protected lands).  One of the lessons learned is that hand clearing to open habitat and create a woodland setting is extremely hard work but fortunately personnel from zoos, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and State and Federal agencies show up and work diligently year after year.  The use of frog-egging (SBG's technical term for putting out plants for introductions and safeguarding), micrositing, monitoring, and adaptive management techniques will continue.  SBG is still in the process of refining micrositing by addressing the issue of where to place plants in relation to steep slopes, rain flow and riverlets, and exposed rock habitat.  Echinacea laevigata plants ex-situ works but still has problems - hybridization concerns exist so it is not the favored process for holding plants, winter rotting in plants, and collecting seeds in-situ and growing annually for outplanting when rains break in (ever later and later) each fall.  Another issue is the need to get creative during epic droughts when hand watering is necessary via core GPCA and volunteers carrying 40lb bladder bags up steep slopes in the dead of summer.  One game changer is the GPCA Safeguarding Database provided by the Atlanta Botanical Garden that tracks data such as ex-situ population, in-situ introductions for safeguarding, augmentations, work parties, monitoring numbers, seeds collected, fire management, shape files for populations, etc.  There are years when it is necessary to pause planting (frog-egging) and stop seed collecting until the habitat restoration catches up.  This allows the Forest Service along with teams of agency partners to conduct woody removal, herbicide treatments, and prescribed burns ultimately creating beautiful woodlands.  A valuable lesson learned is that the reintroduction project has been very species focused but instead needs to broaden to habitat restoration for woodlands, comparison plants, and support insects and birds.  Expanding the plant community includes Georgia Aster, Fraser's Loosestrife, and Curly Heads.  The biggest news is that the Forest Service is expanding the recovery of woodlands habitat with the creation of the US Forest Service Foothills Landscape Project. This will open significant appropriate sites possibly hundreds of acres of woodland habitant which may take place as soon as 2020.  This is indeed a welcomed shift in mentality.  (Ceska et al. 2018)

Elvia Ryan
  • 07/29/2018

G2/S2 Federal Status: Endangered.  GA Status: Endangered.  31 EORs, 10 seen since 2000.  2015 SWAP Priority. (Ceska et al. 2018)

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Known from about 60 occurrences, a majority of which are of fair to poor viability in several southeastern states. Most historically known populations were destroyed by development and habitat alteration. Presently the greatest threat is the suppression of fire. Many of the higher quality sites are on protected lands.

  • 01/01/2010

Curtailment of range. Collection of plants mistaken for the medicinal Echinacea purpurea. Fire suppression. Highway rights-of-way maintenance. Urbanization and suburbanization of the area of occurrence. Encroachment of exotic species. Possibl

  • 01/01/2010

There are 7 populations in Virginia, 6 in North Carolina, 8 in South Carolina, and 3 in Georgia. Three additional populations in South Carolina are thought to be relicts of garden plantings (Gaddy 1991). Eleven of the remaining populations contain less than 100 plants each and 71% are on roadsides, rights-of-way, or adjacent to trails.

  • 01/01/2010

Research on life history, species biology, and appropriate management is currently underway (Edwards and Madsen 1993). The majority of the current research is in management techniques.

  • 01/01/2010

Various sites are being managed in different ways but these techniques are experimental and populations are continuously monitored to find the most appropriate techniques. Prescribe burning is yielding promising results and the effects of burn time and canopy removal prior to burning are being investigated (Barnett-Lawrence 1994, 1995; USFWS 1995). Another experimental management technique is selected mechanical removal of woody species every four years. This option was selected after experimentation with several techniques (Benjamin et al. 1991). Roadside populations have been marked to protect them from accidental destruction or inappropriate management. There are plans underway to reestablish the species at a site in Georgia with plants propagated from seeds from the reestablishment site (USFWS 1995).

  • 01/01/2010

More information is needed on life history and species biology. Little is know of pollinators or seed dispersal. Genetic research would allow managers to know whether or not plants are clonal or individual as well as informing on population genetics (USFWS 1995).

  • 01/01/2010

Both seed and plants of Smooth-Purple Coneflower are being maintained at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in addition to the seeds being stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory.

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Nomenclature
Taxon Echinacea laevigata
Authority (Boynton & Beadle) Blake
Family Asteraceae
CPC Number 1541
ITIS 37278
USDA ECLA
Common Names smooth coneflower | smooth-purple coneflower
Associated Scientific Names Echinacea laevigata | Echinacea purpurea var. laevigata
Distribution Historically, the range of Smooth-Purple Coneflower included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas. The current distribution is reduced to Virginia,
State Rank
State State Rank
Georgia S2
North Carolina S1S2
Pennsylvania SX
South Carolina S3
Virginia S2
Habitat

Smooth-Purple Coneflower is found in sunny sites with low competition, usually on magnesium and calcium rich soils. These sites include open woods, barrens, roadsides, clearcuts, dry limestone bluffs, and power line rights-of-way. Periodic disturbance is necessary for the maintenance of open conditions. (USFWS 1995)

Ecological Relationships

It is likely that this species historically relied on fire and large herbivores to maintain the open conditions it requires for survival. The fires, which once created prairie-like patches among southeastern forests, may have been set by Native Americans prior to European settlement. Certainly, there was no policy of fire suppression as is now the case. The identity of the pollinators and seed dispersers of this species are not yet known. (USFWS 1995)

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Honeybees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Butterflies & Moths
Butterflies Confirmed Pollinator Link
Brush-footed butterflies Argynnis (Speyeria) aphrodite Floral Visitor Link
Brush-footed butterflies Argynnis (Speyeria) cybele cybele Floral Visitor Link
Skippers Atalopedes campestris Floral Visitor Link
Sulphurs Colias eurytheme Floral Visitor Link
Brush-footed butterflies Danaus plexippus Floral Visitor Link
Brush-footed butterflies Euptoieta claudia Floral Visitor Link
Swallowtails Papilio glaucus rutulus Floral Visitor Link
Swallowtails Papilio multicaudata Floral Visitor Link
Swallowtails Papilio polyxenes Floral Visitor Link
Skippers Poanes taxiles Floral Visitor Link
Skippers Polites peckius Floral Visitor Link
Skippers Polites themistocles Floral Visitor Link
Whites Pontia protodice Floral Visitor Link
Skippers Pyrgus communis Floral Visitor Link
Hairstreaks Strymon melinus Floral Visitor Link
Brush-footed butterflies vanessa atalanta Floral Visitor Link
Brush-footed butterflies Vanessa cardui Floral Visitor Link
Brush-footed butterflies Vanessa carye Floral Visitor Link
Metalmark moths Bee species Floral Visitor Link
Other
Butterflies Confirmed Pollinator Link

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