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Smooth Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata)

Picture of Smooth Coneflower

Status:  Endangered

Description:  Smooth coneflower is a perennial herb in the Aster family (Asteraceae) that grows up to 1.5 meters (m) tall from a vertical root stock.  The large elliptical to broadly lanceolate basal leaves may reach 20 centimeters (cm) in length and 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 5 to 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, 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.

Picture of Smooth Coneflower habitat at Picture Creek, NC

Distribution and Range:  The historical range of smooth coneflower included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas.  The species is currently known to survive only in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  In Virginia, smooth coneflower is found in Alleghany, Franklin, Halifax and Montgomery counties.  The North Carolina populations are in Durham, Granville, Mecklenburg and Rockingham counties.  In South Carolina, smooth coneflower occurs in Aiken, Allendale, Anderson, Barnwell, Lancaster, Oconee, Pickens and Richland counties.  Smooth coneflower is only known from Stephens and Habersham counties in Georgia.  Several of the remaining populations are on publicly owned lands, including the Chattahoochee National Forest, the George Washington National Forest, the Sumter National Forest, 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 Virginia sites.

Listing:  Smooth coneflower was listed as Endangered on October 8, 1992 under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended).

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.

Why Protect Smooth Coneflower:  Extinction is a natural process.  Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation at about the same rate they go extinct.  However, because of air and water pollution, over-hunting, extensive deforestation, the loss of wetlands, and other human-impacts, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds speciation.  These actions are reducing the biodiversity on Earth.

The reduction of biodiversity reduces the ecological integrity of our environment.  All living organisms perform a function in our environment and are dependent on the functions of other organisms.  In turn, there is interconnectedness among species including us in the environment. 

For More Information about Smooth Coneflower... 

Do you need additional help? 

For additional information about Smooth Coneflower or the information presented on this webpage, contact Dale Suiter in the Raleigh Field Office at Dale_Suiter@fws.gov.

Questions related to the Service's endangered species program or other program activities can be addressed to the appropriate staff from our Asheville or Raleigh Field Offices.

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