This wildflower is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae).
The flower of this plant differs from other coneflowers in that the rays spread or are upturned as opposed to reflexed and the color is richer than most other coneflowers. It sends a long tap root down into cracks to find soil and moisture below the rocks of the cedar glades where it lives.
The Tennessee coneflower, a perennial wildflower thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1968, was one of the first designated endangered plants. Found in a three-county area of north-central Tennessee, it grows in openings, or glades, in red cedar forest on thin soil overlays. Coneflower populations are restricted to the area near Nashville where suburban development is rapidly consuming farmland, forest and the glades where the coneflower lives (and could be restored).
Coneflower conservation efforts have achieved many successes: there are over 100,000 plants now found on less than 300 acres of land. Many colonies have been acquired and are now on protected state lands and a new colony has been established on federal land. However, other glade species that face similar threats have not been so lucky–species like the Spring Creek bladderpod and Pyne’s ground plum are far from recovery.
This photo was taken in the Couchville Cedar Glade. Couchville Cedar Glade is a 122-acre natural area in Davidson and Wilson Counties and is contiguous with the east boundary of Long Hunter State Park. Couchville supports one of the largest known and best quality populations of the federally endangered Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis). Couchville also provides one of the finest examples of a glade-barrens complex and protects many rare plant species. The glades are distributed where limestone outcropping and shallow soils limit growth of perennial plants and support annual species like leavenworthia, sporobolus, and sedum. The barrens species, that also includes Tennessee coneflower, occur where soils increase and grasses like little bluestem and side oats grama become dominant. The glades and barrens interface forming a complex. There are small woodland patches surrounding the glade-barrens complex with some shrubby vegetation present in the barrens. There are also some seasonal wet areas where small sedge openings occur and where an ephemeral stream habitat supports a small colony of the federally listed endangered leafy prairie clover (Dalea foliosa).