Classification, origin and description
Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)
Typology: Perennial, rhizomatous
Propagation: division, seed, cutting
Etymology: the name of the genus is of Greek origin and means porcupine, with evident reference to the crown of pointed sepals that surround the corolla.
This genus, which includes only two species, is closely related to Rudbeckia, of which E. were once a part. In Rudbeckia the predominant colors are yellow and orange; in E., purple, brown, pink, with different shades.
Echinacea angustifolia DC roots and flower (photo http://solerbe.com)
Echinacea purpurea Moench. (photo www.vanmeuwen.com)
Hybrid Echinacea (website photo)
How it is grown
They are robust and rustic plants, suitable for large gardens where they can be grown in groups, in lawns, or even in mixed borders. They need humus-rich soils and should not be disturbed for many years.
Species and varieties
- Echinacea angustifolia DC .: species native to North America, where it is widespread in grasslands and steppes. It was imported to Europe in the late 17th century with E. purpurea. The whole plant is covered with bristles; the stems are suffused with red; the leaves are lanceolate, whole or weakly toothed. The flower heads are always single, large; the ligules are wine red, thin and linear, 5-6 cm long, always hanging; the disc is purple black. Multiplication is obtained by seed, sowing in the spring on a cold bed, or by division that takes place after flowering or in the spring; or even by cutting. It prefers cool, humus-rich soils and positions in partial shade. Today it is mainly cultivated for medicinal purposes: the active ingredients are extracted from the whole plant, harvested fresh. The properties are antiseptic and healing.
- Echinacea purpurea Mooench .: species native to North America, grows in sparse woods and prairies. The stems are hairless, stained with red, leafy, little or not at all branched at the top. The leaves are equipped with long petioles, grooved in the upper part: they are sharp, ovate, serrated, rough on both pages; the leaves of the upper part of the stem are smaller and have a shorter petiole. The flower heads are mostly single, with long petioles; the ligules are wine red, 5-6 cm long, horizontal and later hanging, forked at the top. The exposure can be from sunny to semi-shady. Sowing is usually preferred to division, because some plants are reluctant to take root. It is sown in spring in a seedling or pots or a container; in autumn the seedlings are planted. The new plants bloom after at least a year.
There are beautiful horticultural varieties of hybrid origin, with flowers up to 1.25 cm high and large white flowers, dark crimson, dark wine red and even darker disc.
Diseases, pests and adversities
They are quite resistant to diseases and parasites; sometimes aphids and gray mold can compromise the appearance of flowers, without however significantly damaging the plant.