All about Coneflower Seeds
When gardeners talk about coneflower seeds they are most often discussing the seeds of the Echinacea or purple coneflower plant. In recent years the “purple” has disappeared more and more from the title because the flower is now available in several colors. The purple coneflower plant is an herbaceous flowering plant, which is grown not only for its blossoms but for its medicinal use as well.
Coneflowers are native to North America and there are nine known species. The purple coneflower, or Echinacea purpurea, is the most potent for medicinal use. Traditionally the Echinacea plant has been used to prevent and treat the symptoms of colds and flu. It is also used to strengthen the immune system and less frequently, to heal wounds and skin conditions.
The coneflower plant is dried and crushed to make all types of extracts, juices, teas plus other preparations to be used topically. All parts of the plant--coneflower seeds, flowers, fruits, leaves, stems and roots are used. Scientific evidence is very mixed concerning any medicinal use of the coneflower plant. It has not been shown to have any benefits at all for children and it is not recommended that children be given derivatives of this plant.
As for adults, studies show no positive results for prevention or treatment of cold or flu symptoms. There are two areas which look somewhat promising but both of these benefits need much more study before the coneflower would be recommended as an aid. These are upper respiratory infections and strengthening the immune system.
Because of possible inter-reactions with prescription medications, be sure to inform your doctor if you are taking this or any other non-traditional herbal treatments or supplements. As for coneflower seeds, leaves, roots, etc. there have not been many side effects other than allergies. These include increased asthma and anaphylaxis reactions (these can be life-threatening). Very minor gastrointestinal symptoms were sometimes experienced.
The people most likely to experience an allergic reaction to purple coneflower were those who were also allergic to other plants in the daisy family, which includes ragweed, daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums. People with asthma or those with a genetic tendency toward allergies are most at risk. One of the most interesting statistics about Echinacea is that it makes up 10% of the supplement market in the United States.
The purple coneflower is very popular as a garden flower and coneflower seeds often attract many birds, especially the American goldfinch. Coneflower seeds are also collected to grow more coneflower plants, although just throwing the cone portion of the plant on the ground at the end of the season would accomplish the same objective.
If you want coneflower seeds, you need not deadhead your flowers on their last bloom of the season. The petals of the flowers will turn black and then fall to the ground. The cone part of the plant will also change in color from orange to black. The stems will turn black and become fragile. When all of these changes have taken place, the coneflower seeds are ready to be harvested. Cut the cone off of the plant leaving about a foot of stem hanging beneath the cone. Get rid of any leaves that might be remaining. You can hang the cones by the stem in a warm place or you can place the cones and stems in paper bags in a warm spot to dry out.
You can shake the bag every once in a while to release the seeds from the cone. When most of the seeds are loose, you can take a pair of pliers and pull off any remaining seeds. Dump your bag of seeds and chaff onto a newspaper and let dry for two more weeks. Then put the seeds in a plastic bag, seal it, and place it in the freezer until spring planting.
Purple coneflowers are seldom bothered by pests or diseases, so they are an excellent plant to add to your flower garden. Whether or not you care about the medicinal uses, you will enjoy the many colorful flowers the plant produces all summer long.