There once was a plant with a cone-shaped flower with long, cascading purple petals. It was classified as Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as Purple Coneflower. Depending on your perspective on color, the petals might have been described as pink, but could most certainly fall under a “purple-ish” classification.
Coneflowers have always been one of my favorites, in the garden and as the subject of my lens. When I got my first Nikon CoolPix 950 digital camera back in 1999, I took a picture of a coneflower and the result ignited my passion for botanical photography.
In 1999 and for a long time before, it was considered a prairie flower, right along with Rudbeckia and Baptisia. Then, all of a sudden it seems, the gardening world was overjoyed to welcome “native plants” into the home garden, and Echinacea and its prairie cousins became stars.
And we all know what happens when a plant becomes popular. The hybridizers start falling over themselves to conceive the next great cultivar of the popular plant. They strive for longer bloom time, larger flowers, and — of course — different colors. And that’s how a plant with purple in its name now comes in a spectrum of red, pink, orange and white and causes great confusion to casual gardeners who buy a “purple” coneflower only to find out it’s the color of tomato soup or macaroni and cheese.
Just this year, I’ve found a number of varieties of Echinacea purpurea that don’t fall anywhere near purple in the color spectrum.