A true sign of summertime has arrived in the prairies and glades of Missouri: the coneflower. The first few blooms have just begun to unfold. They’ll be here all summer long, drifting in thick seas of prairie grass like purple jellyfish.
Coneflowers are also commonly called by the scientific name of their genus, Echinacea. You might recall seeing that word in the tea or supplements aisle at your local grocery store; their extract is commonly used as an immune system booster. In living form, they’re best known as purple flowers, but there are varieties that produce orange, white, and yellow flowers as well. These colorful blooms are popular with pollinators of all kinds, from butterflies to hummingbirds. In the fall, the seeds still clinging to the center of the flower are a welcome feast for other birds as well; goldfinches in particular seem to be fond of them.
But fall is a far-off notion as we dive headfirst into June. After a prolonged chill in the air, a lengthy spring season seems to be behind us. It feels like we are heading into high summer at last, and the arrival of the sun-loving coneflower confirms that. They’ll stick around until August or September, soaking up all the heat they can get.