Echinacea - Sonnenhut
Echinacea - Sonnenhut

Echinacea, often known as false coneflowers or hedgehog heads, is a genus of plants in the composite family. Its pronunciation is [eçinatse], sometimes eçints. The scientific genus name Echinacea comes from the ancient Greek word o echnos [ekhinos] for sea urchin (Echinoidea), and it alludes to the genus’ distinctive, prominent, spiky spire leaves that hang above the tubular blossoms. Only eastern and central North America is home to all species.


Depending on the variety, Echinacea species can grow to heights of up to 140 cm as perennial herbaceous plants. All species—aside from Echinacea purpurea—have taproots. The upright stems might have one or several branches. The amount of hair on the plants can vary. The basal, stem-distributed, and alternate stem leaves are essentially long-stalked. One, three, or five leaf veins can be found on a basic leaf blade. Usually smooth, but occasionally notched or serrated, is the leaf margin. Leaf surfaces can be hairy or occasionally smooth.

The single terminal, moderately lengthy pedicels of the head-shaped inflorescences are present. The diameter of the elongated flower heads varies from 1.2 to 4 cm. In two to four rows, there are 15 to 50 bracts that range in size and shape from almost identical to noticeably different. The bases of the inflorescences are nearly spherical or cylindrical. A distinctive characteristic of the genus is the presence of orange to reddish-purple spreading leaves that rise above the tubular flowers and resemble little hedgehog spines (botanical name!). The flower baskets have 200–300 tubular florets and eight–21 ray florets. The asexual ray florets (also known as ray florets) come in a range of colors from light pink to yellow. Pinkish to reddish purple, greenish or yellow tubular flowers with five corolla lobes are hermaphrodite fertile disk blooms. When compared to Echinacea pallida, the pollen is primarily white instead of predominantly yellow.

A dark brown band runs along the three to four edges of the light brown or bicolored achenes. The pappus has up to four noticeable teeth and is roughly fashioned like a crown.


Conrad Moench published the term Echinacea for the first time in Methodus plantas horti botanici et agri Marburgensis, 591, in 1794.

Brauneria Neck, ex Porter & Britton, is a name for the plant echinacea moench.

According to Arthur John Cronquist, the original plant systematics included four species of Echinacea, each with two varieties: Echinacea laevigata, Echinacea atrorubens, and Echinacea purpurea. Echinacea pallida was the most common, with two varieties: Echinacea pallida var. angustifolia and Echinacea pallida var. pallida.

S. E. Binns et al., A systematic revision of Echinacea (Asteraceae: Heliantheae), in Syst. Bot. 27, 2002, pp. 610-632, are most likely the authors with the most recent treatment of the genus. Ronald McGregor provided the list of nine Echinacea species, two of which had two variants apiece.

Medical Usage

Native Americans were known to use echinaceas as ancient medicinal plants. There is proof that it can be used for toothaches, poisoning, burns, colds, rheumatic symptoms, and as an analgesic (especially for sore throats and stomach aches). Today, it is used externally to treat wounds that aren’t healing well as well as to support respiratory or urinary tract infections. The species Echinacea angustifolia, pallida, and purpurea are used most frequently. Science debates the medical impact; different studies and meta-analyses reach conflicting conclusions.

Purple coneflower (Echinaceae purpureae herba) aerial portions are used to make solid and liquid fresh plant preparations; tea preparation is useless. Additionally, there are commercially available preparations made from the roots of prairie hedgehog, narrow-leaved coneflower, and purple coneflower. The preparations cannot be directly compared to one another due to the various methods used.

Certain coneflower-derived medications may stimulate the immune system. This is hypothesized to happen through interfering with bacterial tissue hyaluronidase activity.