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Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
Echinacea for MemoriesPosted Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at 2:33 PM
Echinacea pallida, our most common roadside Echinacea, blooming now. For photo prints, go to www.stevenfoster.com/prints.html
I was intrigued by the plant and when I closed my eyes in the evening, I saw brilliant Echinacea flowers. Hmmm, I thought, I better pay attention to this plant, and I did.
By 1984, I had written for several now obscure publications, and had drawn research attention to then serious adulteration problems, conservation issues and problems related to development of cultivated supplies.
The questions raised were solved by numerous graduate students and research groups, leading to a much better understanding of the history, botany, ecology, and development of Echinacea. Some of that research evolved in unexpected ways.
My real claim to fame, according to colleagues at the Academy of Sciences in Poltava, Ukraine, is that I am the "king of Echinacea" in the Ukraine. While European and American research groups were focusing on the underlying science of the value of Echinacea in preventing and treating colds and flu, Ukrainians were focused on a far more daunting problem -- the effect of constant exposure to ambient radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown.
As is often the case, research on medicinal plants is specific to the needs of a population or culture. The majority of Echinacea grown in the Ukraine by the mid-1990s was from wild seed of Echinacea purpurea that I had collected in Izard County in the late-1980s and given to colleagues in Poltava. They often send me new research papers, but they are in Ukrainian or Russian, so I know little about their research. Echinacea products available in the Ukraine also reflect a societal bias -- Echinacea vodka.
Three of the nine species of Echinacea are native to Carroll County -- the familiar Echinacea purpurea that many of us grow in our gardens; the now flowering Echinacea pallida, common on limestone outcrops along our roadsides; and the Ozark endemic, Echinacea paradoxa, seen on Hwy. 221 in eastern Carroll County, and on Hwy. 23, just north of Hwy. 187.
I was also surprised to see it last weekend along the top of the road cut at the bridge on US 62 west near the Leatherwood Park entrance. The "paradox" of Echinacea paradoxa is that this "purple coneflower" is yellow.
For me, an Echinacea bloom brings a smile of pleasant memories.
Steven Foster is a world renowned botanical photographer. He has published many books, including 2 for National Geographic
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