CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Echinacea laevigata

Rob Gardner

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Echinacea laevigata

Common Names: 
smooth coneflower, smooth-purple coneflower
(Boynton & Beadle) Blake
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife
 Forest Service

Echinacea laevigataenlarge
Photographer: Rob Gardner
Image Owner: North Carolina Botanical Garden

Echinacea laevigata is Not Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 

Echinacea laevigata

Smooth-purple Coneflower is an herbaceous perennial closely related to the common Purple Coneflower. The leaves of Smooth-Purple Coneflower, which are never cordate (heart shaped), distinguish the two in the field. It is a rhizomatous perennial herb with a fleshy rootstock and coarse, lanceolate, scabrous basal leaves. It grows up to 1.5 m tall and the stems are smooth with few leaves. Flower heads are usually solitary. The ray flowers are light pink to purple and usually drooping. Disk flowers are very dark purple and tubular. Since the discovery of the species, more than half of the known populations have been destroyed, mainly because of agricultural clearing and residential and industrial development. (USFWS 1995)

Smooth-Purple Coneflower has historically always been a rare plant. Its habitat is restricted to open sites with low competition. Prior to European settlement, forest openings were more common. Such openings were most likely maintained by fire and large grazing mammals. Neither of these forms of disturbance is a significant factor in modern times. As a result, acceptable habitat for species requiring such conditions is greatly diminished. There are a total of 23 extant populations of this attractive plant, 13 of which are in decline and only one of which is increasing.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
North Carolina
South Carolina
State Range of  Echinacea laevigata
  Smooth-Purple Coneflower is found in sunny sites with low competition, usually on magnesium and calcium rich soils. These sites include open woods, barrens, roadsides, clearcuts, dry limestone bluffs, and power line rights-of-way. Periodic disturbance is necessary for the maintenance of open conditions. (USFWS 1995)

  Historically, the range of Smooth-Purple Coneflower included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas. The current distribution is reduced to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. It is believed that the records from Alabama and Arkansas were misidentifications (Gaddy 1991).

Number Left
  There are 7 populations in Virginia, 6 in North Carolina, 8 in South Carolina, and 3 in Georgia. Three additional populations in South Carolina are thought to be relicts of garden plantings (Gaddy 1991). Eleven of the remaining populations contain less than 100 plants each and 71% are on roadsides, rights-of-way, or adjacent to trails.


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Georgia S1 T 7/13/1995  
  North Carolina S1 E 8/2/1991  
  Pennsylvania SX N 10/22/1991  
  South Carolina S1 B 6/14/1990  
  Virginia S2 E 8/7/1989  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  It is likely that this species historically relied on fire and large herbivores to maintain the open conditions it requires for survival. The fires, which once created prairie-like patches among southeastern forests, may have been set by Native Americans prior to European settlement. Certainly, there was no policy of fire suppression as is now the case. The identity of the pollinators and seed dispersers of this species are not yet known. (USFWS 1995)

  Curtailment of range.
Collection of plants mistaken for the medicinal Echinacea purpurea.
Fire suppression.
Highway rights-of-way maintenance.
Urbanization and suburbanization of the area of occurrence.
Encroachment of exotic species.
Possible predation by insects.
Inadequacy of protection afforded by state laws.
Small population size.
Lack of formal protection for all but a few populations.
From U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1995.

Current Research Summary
  Research on life history, species biology, and appropriate management is currently underway (Edwards and Madsen 1993). The majority of the current research is in management techniques.

Current Management Summary
  Various sites are being managed in different ways but these techniques are experimental and populations are continuously monitored to find the most appropriate techniques. Prescribe burning is yielding promising results and the effects of burn time and canopy removal prior to burning are being investigated (Barnett-Lawrence 1994, 1995; USFWS 1995).
Another experimental management technique is selected mechanical removal of woody species every four years. This option was selected after experimentation with several techniques (Benjamin et al. 1991). Roadside populations have been marked to protect them from accidental destruction or inappropriate management. There are plans underway to reestablish the species at a site in Georgia with plants propagated from seeds from the reestablishment site (USFWS 1995).

Research Management Needs
  More information is needed on life history and species biology. Little is know of pollinators or seed dispersal. Genetic research would allow managers to know whether or not plants are clonal or individual as well as informing on population genetics (USFWS 1995).

Ex Situ Needs
  Both seed and plants of Smooth-Purple Coneflower are being maintained at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in addition to the seeds being stored at the National Seed Storage Laboratory.


Books (Single Authors)

Cronquist, A. 1980. Vascular flora of the southeastern United States. Vol. 1. Asteraceae. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 261p.

Radford, A.E.; Ahles, H.E.; Bell, C.R. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1183p.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Electronic Sources

(2002). The Smooth Purple Coneflower on the SRS. The University of Georgia's Savana River Ecology Laboratory. http://www.uga.edu/srel/Fact_Sheets/smooth_purple_coneflower.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Arnold, J.E.; Edwards, L.G.; Spira, T.P.; Walker, J.L. (1998). Efforts to Save an Endangered Species - Echinacea laevigata (Smooth Coneflower). Clemson University. http://virtual.clemson.edu/groups/hort/sctop/pdf_docs/BSec/BSec-13.pdf. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Affolter, J.M. 1999-2000. The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. GPCAnews (Newsletter of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance). 2: 1, 8.

Apsit, V.J.; Dixon, P.M. 2001. Genetic diversity and population structure in Echinacea laevigata (Boynton and beadle) blake, an endangered plant species. Natural Areas Journal. 21, 1: 71-77.

Hurlburt, D. 1999. Endangered Echinacea--What Threat, Which Species, and Where?. United Plant Savers Newsletter (UpS Newsletter). 2, 1: 4-5.

McGregor, R.L. 1968. The taxonomy of the genus Echinacea (Compositae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin. 48, 4: 113-142.

McKeown, K.A. 1999. Echinacea Gives the United States an Opportunity to Put Conservation Policies into Practice. Diversity. 15, 3: 17.

Patrick, T.S. 1999. Recovery of Echinacea laevigata. GPCAnews (Newsletter of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance). 2: 1, 8.

Philippi, T.; Collins, B.; Guisti, S.; Dixon, P.M. 2001. A multistage approach to population monitoring for rare plant populations. Natural Areas Journal. 21, 1: 111-116.

USFWS. 1992. Echinacea laevigata (smooth coneflower) determined to be endangered. Federal Register. 57, 196: 46340-46344.

USFWS. 1992. Final Listing Rules Approved for 21 Species During July/October 1992. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 17, 9-11: 9.

USFWS. 1992. Listing Proposals. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 17, 1-2: 9-10.

USFWS. 1992. Regional News--Regions 2 & 4. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 17, 9-11: 9, 13-15.


1995. 1995 Annual report on taxa in the national collection for North Carolina Botanical Garden. Annual report to the Center for Plant Conservation. p.1.

Barnett-Lawrence, M. 1994. Smooth Coneflower, Echinacea laevigata (Boynton &Beadle)Blake, experimental management and monitoring for 1993. Raleigh, NC: Report to the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. p.65.

Barnett-Lawrence, M. 1995. Smooth Coneflower, Echinacea laevigata (Boynton &Beadle)Blake, experimental management and monitoring for 1994 and 1995. Raleigh, NC: Report to the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. p.28 + appendices.

Benjamin, S.; Drozda, E.; Goode, A.; Martin, R. 1991. An evaluation of management alternatives for the Smooth Coneflowers sites at Falls Lake Reservoir. Duke University, Durham, NC: Project Completed for FES 316-Case Studies in Environmental Management, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. p.21.

Gaddy, L.L. 1991. The status of Echinacea laevigata (Boynton &Beadle) Blake. Asheville, NC: Unpublished report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.24 + appendices and maps.

USFWS. 1995. Smooth coneflower Recovery Plan. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.31.


Emanuel, Carlen M. 1996. Silvicultural options for recovering the endangered smooth coneflower, Echinacea laevigata (Boynton and Beadle) Blake. [M.S. Thesis]: Clemson University. 116p.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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