What is Prairie Coneflower?

T. L. Childree

Prairie Coneflower is a perennial plant native to the United States. It produces small yellow blossoms during the mid-summer and grows to about 3 feet (91 cm) in height at maturity. This plant is also referred to as Yellow Coneflower and by other names. It is used primarily for grazing by livestock and certain wildlife species. Prairie Coneflower has also been cultivated for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.

The stems and leaves of prairie coneflower have been used by Native Americans to treat rashes caused by exposure to poison ivy.
The stems and leaves of prairie coneflower have been used by Native Americans to treat rashes caused by exposure to poison ivy.

The drought resistant Prairie Coneflower grows naturally in the Great Plains area from the northern part of Mexico to southern Canada. This wildflower is typically found in grasslands, foothills, and alongside roads and railways. It usually has a seed producing lifespan of about three years. This plant is known by many regional names such as Upright Prairie Coneflower, Long Headed Coneflower, and Yellow Coneflower. It is also referred to as a Columnar Prairie Coneflower and Mexican Hat.

Native Americans have cultivated coneflower for medicinal uses.
Native Americans have cultivated coneflower for medicinal uses.

Prairie Coneflower is a perennial with green leaves that fall off at the end of the growing season. This plant produces modest yellow flowers during mid summer followed by prominent cones of brown fruit in early autumn. Prairie Coneflowers seem to prefer open spaces and relatively dry climates. This herbaceous flower grows in an upright manner and generally has a wood-like base with a taproot. These plants typically reach a height of about 3 feet (91 cm) when fully mature.

This plant is cultivated in certain areas for livestock grazing. Prairie Coneflower is considered to be nutritious for all types of domestic livestock when consumed during its early development and growth period. The seeds of this plant are consumed by several types of birds as well as some smaller species of mammals. It is also a desirable herb for larger species of game animals, and a number of upland birds utilize the tall plant as a nesting area. These plants have also been used in different types of range land and prairie restoration plans.

Native Americans utilized this plant for a variety of medicinal purposes. The stems and leaves were boiled and used as a treatment for ailments such as rashes, poison ivy, pain, and snakebites. A drink was concocted from the plant’s tops to relieve stomach aches, coughs, fevers, headaches, and epileptic seizures. Medicinal teas were also made from the leaves and flower heads of this plant. In addition to medicinal uses, the flowers of the Prairie Coneflower were sometimes boiled to produce a deep yellow dye.

Historically, the top of the Prairie Coneflower was used to relieve stomach aches.
Historically, the top of the Prairie Coneflower was used to relieve stomach aches.

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