Monday, September 26, 2011

No Longer Endangered: The Tennessee Coneflower

The Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea Tennesseensis), the first wildflower in Tennessee to qualify as a federally endangered species, was removed from the list on August 4, 2011 almost three decades after it was accidentally rediscovered by Vanderbilt Biology professor, Elsie Quarterman at Mount View Cedar Glade in 1968. The Tennessee Coneflower is rare because it is endemic to Middle Tennessee and is only found in Davidson, Rutherford, and Wilson Counties. Endemic plants are plants that are native to a particular area and don't grow naturally anywhere else.
The coneflower grows in cedar glades found in the central basin of Tennessee. Cedar glades are open, rocky areas that are surrounded by Eastern Red Cedar trees as well as Hickory and Oak. The sunny openings are susceptible to harsh conditions, very hot and dry in the summer and wet in the winter. There is little to no soil in cedar glades and often plants grow right out of the limestone rock. The glades are home to many endemic plants that have become conditioned to the glade's harsh environment and shallow soil depth.
The Tennessee Coneflower is not only endemic but medicinal as well. There is evidence that Native Americans used the plant by pulverizing the root and mixing it with oil or honey to help speed the recovery of wounds and other skin ailments. The root has also been used to help fight different types of infections including the urinary tract, mouth sores, athlete’s foot and hay fever.
Due to conservation and effort the Tennessee Coneflower has made a comeback and is once again thriving in Middle Tennessee. The flower blooms from May to October and can be viewed at Couchville Cedar Glade, Mount View Cedar Glade, Vesta Cedar Glade, Cedars of Lebanon State Park and Long Hunter State Park in Middle Tennessee.

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