Endangered Species
Ecological Services
August 4, 2011

Recovery Success Stories| Tennessee Purple Coneflower (10:52)

Host: Ann Haas with Andrea Bishop, Gina Hancock, Geoff Call, and Mary Jennings

Tennessee purple coneflower (click to view larger)
Tennessee purple coneflower
Photo credit: ©Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D

A Secure Future for the Tennessee Purple Coneflower

More than three decades of conservation and protection have paid off well for the Tennessee purple coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis), a distinctive plant once in danger of extinction. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will recognize the wildflower's recovery by removing it from the national list of threatened and endangered species.

Tennessee purple coneflower is a member of the sunflower family in the genus Echinacea, which includes several purple coneflower species that are commercially marketed for ornamental and medicinal purposes. Purple coneflowers sold commercially are usually hybrids.

First collected in 1878, the Tennessee purple coneflower was not described as a distinct species until 1898. It then went unnoticed until it was rediscovered in the late 1960s in Davidson County and in the early 1970s in Wilson County. When first listed in 1979 as endangered, the Tennessee coneflower was found only as small populations in limestone barrens and cedar glades in Davidson, Rutherford, and Wilson counties.

Many factors influenced the recovery, including discovering new colonies through surveys of suitable habitat; researching the life history, genetics, and ecology of the species; and establishing new colonies from seed or nursery propagated plants.

This recovery success story is the result of conservation efforts by many partners who worked more than 30 years to protect and expand the Tennessee purple coneflower colonies. The Service's partners include the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Division of Forestry, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, and various private landowners.

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Last updated: July 15, 2013