Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Smooth Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata)

Echinacea laevigata

Smooth Coneflower

Family: Aster (Asteraceae)

Federal Status: Endangered, listed October 8, 1992

Best Search Time: late May through October

Description: Smooth coneflower is a perennial herb in the Aster family (Asteraceae) that grows up to 3.3 feet (ft) (1 meter; m) tall from a vertical root stock. The large elliptical to broadly lanceolate basal leaves may reach 8 inches (in) (20 centimeters; cm) in length and 3.0 in (7.5 cm) in width and taper into long petioles toward the base. They are smooth to slightly rough in texture. The stems are smooth, with few leaves. The mid-stem leaves are smaller than the basal leaves and have shorter petioles. Flower heads are usually solitary. The rays of the flowers (petal-like structures) are light pink to purplish in color, usually drooping, and 2 – 3.2 in (5 - 8 cm) long. Flowering occurs from late May through mid July and fruits develop from late June to September. The fruiting structures often persist through the fall. Reproduction is accomplished both sexually (by seed) and asexually (by rhizome).

Habitat: Smooth coneflower is typically found in open woods, glades, cedar barrens, roadsides, clearcuts, dry limestone bluffs, and power line rights-of-way, usually on magnesium and calcium rich soils associated with amphibolite, dolomite or limestone (in Virginia), gabbro (in North Carolina and Virginia), diabase (in North Carolina and South Carolina), and marble (in South Carolina and Georgia). Smooth coneflower occurs in plant communities that have been described as xeric hardpan forests, diabase glades or dolomite woodlands. Optimal sites are characterized by abundant sunlight and little competition in the herbaceous layer. Natural fires, as well as large herbivores, historically influenced the vegetation in this species' range. Many of the herbs associated with Smooth coneflower are also sun-loving species that depend on periodic disturbances to reduce the shade and competition of woody plants.

map of Smooth Coneflower distribution in North Carolina

Map of Smooth Coneflower distribution in North Carolina.

Distribution: Although Smooth coneflower currently occurs in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; historically, it was also known from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Alabama, and Arkansas. Many populations are currently protected by a variety of federal, state and private conservation entities. Several populations occur on the Chattahoochee National Forest, the George Washington National Forest, the Sumter National Forest, Fort Jackson and the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site. Other public lands with Smooth coneflower include those managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Carolina Department of Wildlife and Marine Resources Department (Heritage Trust), the Virginia Natural Heritage Program and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. The Nature Conservancy owns three of the sites in Virginia.

Threats: Smooth coneflower is threatened by fire suppression and habitat destruction resulting from highway construction, residential and commercial development as well as maintenance activities in roadside and utility rights of way. Collection from the wild for horticultural and medicinal uses could also threaten Smooth coneflower.

References:

Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2010. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. NC Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1995. Smooth Coneflower Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Atlanta, GA. 31 pp.

Bibliography:

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For More Information on Smooth Coneflower...

Species Contact:

Dale Suiter, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 919-856-4520 ext. 18

Species profile revised on July 26, 2011.

Last Updated: November 1, 2012