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This rare coneflower belongs to the same family as sunflowers and daisies and it shows. It has large composite flowers in August with striking yellow petal-like rays. The flowers elongate into “cones” and turn brown as seeds ripen. The dark green basal leaves vary slightly in form, usually having three lobes or 5-7 pinnate lobes. The leaves ascending the stem are alternating. Growing over 6 feet (2 m) tall, their height, colour, and distinctive cone make them hard to miss.
Cutleaf coneflower is usually found in open and relatively wet areas like the edges of swamps, sunken areas like ditches, anywhere sunny where water is plentiful.
Coneflowers are quite easy to propagate, and once you have seed sources growing in the wild, your work in that area becomes easy as they continue to self-seed. When you seed the birds start harvesting the seed, that’s your call to action. This generally occurs in September and into October. Cut the heads off healthy plants with lots of seeds and dry them on newspaper in a sunny indoor location. When the seeds can be easily removed from the heads, broadcast them on a nursery bed, and apply a light coating of mulch. Most seeds will germinate the following spring.
Coneflowers are important plants for a wide variety of pollinators, everything from wasps and bees to moths and butterflies. They are a mainstay of native pollinator gardens, along with swamp milkweed and Joe Pye weed. And additional benefit to wildlife is the prolific amount of seed produced each year. In the early fall the coneflower patches in the Macphail Woods arboretum is alive with mixed flocks of finches, sparrows and other birds. At times there have been 60 American goldfinches feeding on the seeds.
Areas of Usage:
Another rare native plant with a variety of uses, cutleaf coneflower is easy to use in any relatively sunny areas. Lots of organic matter and mulch will help compensate for drier locations. Wind in drier areas causes the coneflowers to never reach their maximum height and be much more prone to wilting during droughts.
They naturally seed the surrounding area. This can require some maintenance in more manicured plantings due to their prolific seed-load.
In restoration work, coneflowers would be planted on the edges of wet woods, as long as they had adequate sunlight.
Cutleaf coneflower is a popular pollinator plant. Not only does it attract a wide variety of native bees but also predatory wasps (beneficial to gardens), butterflies and more. It also attracts moths during the night time, a sight worth staying up for. It is also interesting in that each seed head seems to be a different size and shape, and the leaves themselves can be quite unique. There is a lot of variety within the species.