"Once I had a girl on Rocky Top;
Half bear, other half cat;
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop,
I still dream about that."
-Boudleaux Bryant (1920-1987)
& Felice Bryant (1925-2003)
Echinacea tennesseensis is not quite so drought-hardy as E. purpurea nor is it so vigorous. It's pretty easy to grow but if planted with the usual coneflower cultivars it's bound to be overwhelmed & displaced by its cousins.
It is a native wildflower of Tennessee but has gotten exceedingly rare in nature. It's on the Federal Endangered Species List, known only from cedar glade areas near Nashville.
Having an endangered status, it is not offered by nurseries in its strictly wild form. The gardened version that comes closest to a standard offering, itself rather rarely available, is 'Rocky Top.' This is hybridized with E. purpurea but looks pretty much the same as the purely wild E. tennesseensis.
Pink slightly upturned petals encircle a blackish brown-red cone; other echinacea species have reflexed petals, so this one will stand out in a grouping as of differing character. Flowers rise about two feet above the basal leaves.
As clumps mature, they may become over crowded after about four years & need to be dug up for division. Basal leaves are thinner & form a lower clump than E. purpurea, & the two to three inch flowers are smaller than those for E. purpurea.
We have one baby clump of 'Rocky Top' which is still too young to be impressive. The photo above is its first flower in our garden, in early August.
Echinacea means "hedgehog flower" referring to the spiny cone. Finches love the seeds, & 'Rocky Top' will grow true from its seeds.
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