The purple coneflower is a species from the Aster family, a group that also includes sunflowers and daisies. Purple coneflowers grow in open woodlands and grasslands in most of the eastern half of the United States and as far west as Kansas and Iowa. A striking perennial, the purple coneflower makes an attractive addition to wildflower gardens. Identification of this plant comes through recognizing certain features that all purple coneflowers share.
Search for the purple coneflower in the wild in moist areas of high grass fields and along the borders of forests. In an exposed place, the coneflower will not grow as tall as when it does when protected from the wind, such as amongst higher types of grasses in a prairie setting.
Measure the size of the purple coneflower. The entire plant may grow to heights of 5 feet, but most are in the 1- to 3-feet-tall range. The flower itself is from 2 to 5 inches across. The leaves can be as long as 8 inches on large specimens. The purple coneflower has multiple branches stems, especially those that do not grow in an exposed scenario.
Examine the stem and leaves of the flower with your eyes and your fingers. The leaves are oval to oblong and have serrations along their edges. Purple coneflower leaves possess three to five major veins running through them. The stems attached to the main stalk are longer on the leaves at the base portion of the plant. The texture of the stem and leaves is rough and feels almost like sandpaper.
Study the flower heads when the purple coneflower blooms. The purple coneflower can bloom from as early as late spring right into the beginning of fall in much of its range. The flowers grow on the top of the stem, with each flower having as many as 20 purplish rays--flower parts that resemble petals. The drooping rays surround a rounded, brownish head of much smaller disk flowers that takes on a cone-like shape.
Watch for different insects to land on the purple coneflower. Butterflies are fond of the nectar of this plant, according to the Floridata website, and will often frequent areas and gardens where purple coneflowers flourish. A pest of the purple coneflower, the iridescent Japanese beetle, will chew on the leaves.