A wonderful perennial

Echinacea purpurea: Commonly known as the purple cone flower has been used in medicines across the globe for centuries.

Echinacea purpurea: Commonly known as the purple cone flower has been used in medicines across the globe for centuries.

You wouldn’t sit down for tea with a hedgehog would you? Of course not.

Most of us don’t know what such an animal is. But a good many of us have heard of Echinacea; mainly as a bronchial medicinal herb or tonic tea.

A couple from Derbyshire, England took great interest in our gardens at Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden, Elizabeth Park. Indeed I was impressed by their knowledge of herbaceous perennials which I must admit is an English thing, isn’t it.

Often called border perennials, they comprise the mixed border, a type of cottage garden with the object of colour all year round. That’s the theory anyhow, and I wish you the best of British in achieving this in Dubbo.

I proudly led them to a bunch of green clumps with arrow-shaped leaves having the consistency of sandpaper.

The name is Greek for hedgehog, referring to the bristly bract bits under the drooping petals (out of sight).

Our species is E. purpurea and I trialled a punnet at home to be delighted by the show of pink-mauve, white and orange, leather-textured flowers cascading away from a central cone --- hence Cone flower.

Strongly related is the Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) also from the prairie states of the United States. The popular herbal species is E. angustifolia from Kansas up to Pennsylvania, the same place Dorothy came from. You know, the young girl with red shoes on the yellow brick road.

In fact, gardeners in Britain are very familiar with this Kansas herb. The American Indians used Echinacea plants for hundreds of years. It can be an antiseptic and depurative (blood cleanser) for eczema and acne.

Personally I prefer the taste of black leaf tea. I empty the tea pot morning and night onto my Echinacea. If nothing else my Cone flower gets regular fluids, antioxidants and a thin mulch.

Echinacea like deep rich humus, sunny position and good drainage. They put on a terrific flower show.

Do try to avoid their ridiculous name; hedgehog indeed! And please, if a tea bag is your thing, don’t leave them around the base of our Botanic Gardens Cone flowers; not in good taste, you see.

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