Coneflowers and Goldfinches

Now the flowers of the late summer and early fall. Message from Liz Fannin in Columbus OH a little while ago:

Today I had the best reward for planting echinacea: a goldfinch on it. There was a little female who was so engrossed in eating those seeds that she didn’t even fly off when I went out the front door to the car.

On echinacea, from Wikipedia:

Echinacea … is a genus … of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae. The nine species it contains are commonly called coneflowers. They are endemic to eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy heads of composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer. The generic name is derived from the Greek word ἐχῖνος (echino), meaning “sea urchin,” due to the spiny central disk. Some species are used in herbal medicines and some are cultivated in gardens for their showy flowers.

… The flower heads have typically 200-300 fertile, bisexual disc florets but some have more. The corollas are pinkish, greenish, reddish-purple or yellow

I’ll get to the goldfinches in a moment.

A drift of coneflowers, both yellow and purple, in my Columbus garden (photo by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky in 1998):


(You can see why they’re called coneflowers.)

Two of those nine species:

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower or purple coneflower) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Echinacea of the family Asteraceae. Its cone-shaped flowering heads are usually, but not always, purple in the wild. It is native to eastern North America and present to some extent in the wild in much of the eastern, southeastern and midwest United States. (link)

Echinacea paradoxa (Bush’s purple coneflower, Yellow Coneflower) is a perennial species of flowering plant in the genus Echinacea. Echinacea paradoxa is native to Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and is listed as threatened in Arkansas. (link)

There are fancy cultivars of these:



Now the goldfinch. From Wikipedia:

The American goldfinch (Spinus tristis), also known as the eastern goldfinch, is a small North American bird in the finch family. It is migratory, ranging from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season, and from just south of the Canadian border to Mexico during the winter.

… The American goldfinch is a granivore and adapted for the consumption of seedheads, with a conical beak to remove the seeds and agile feet to grip the stems of seedheads while feeding. It is a social bird, and will gather in large flocks while feeding and migrating.


(A male, showier than the female.)

I was worried that goldfinches were endangered, like many pretty songbirds. But, pleasingly, no:

Human activity has generally benefited the American goldfinch. It is often found in residential areas, attracted to bird feeders which increase its survival rate in these areas. Deforestation also creates open meadow areas which are its preferred habitat.

Now two bonuses.

Bonus 1: black-eyed Susans. Another summer composite, closely related to the echinaceas, and especially noticeable at this time of the year.

Rudbeckia hirta, commonly called black-eyed Susan, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Eastern and Central United States. It is one of a number of plants with the common name black-eyed Susan. Other common names for this plant include: brown-eyed Susan, brown Betty, gloriosa daisy, golden Jerusalem, Poorland daisy, yellow daisy, and yellow ox-eye daisy.

… The genus name honors Olaus Rudbeck, who was a professor of botany at the University of Uppsala in Sweden and was one of Linnaeus’s teachers. The specific epithet refers to the trichomes (hairs) occurring on leaves and stems.

R. hirta is widely cultivated in parks and gardens, for summer bedding schemes, borders, containers, wildflower gardens, prairie-style plantings and cut flowers. Numerous cultivars have been developed (link)


Bonus 2: California echinacea. Here in Palo Alto we aren’t as far along in the blooming season as in Columbus, but here are some local photos from Elizabeth. A purple echinacea, one that’s fading, and the (dewy) developing seed head on a third:




Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: