Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The less majestic grey-headed coneflower

Species name: Ratibida pinnata

Common name: grey-headed coneflower

Location: Ontario

This is one of our many native species of wildflowers that prefers very dry clay-rich soils. At one point it was widely distributed across North America with its native range being from Ontario all the way south to the Gulf coast and all the way east to the Atlantic coast. This plant was recently declared extirpated in the wild from Pennsylvania state, and I'm sure there will be other states that will quickly follow suit. The native habitat of this species of flower is very quickly disappearing (large expanses of prairies have all but disappeared from Ontario with few exceptions) and soon the plant itself will follow. The only saving grace about this plant is that it has recently been added onto gardening lists as a desirable species to have in a butterfly and bee garden as they are preferred nectar and pollen sources for these species of insects, so gardeners are bringing them back in large numbers in Ontario and the United States. This doesn't quite count to "un-extirpate" a species, as it must be able to colonize and sustain a population in the wild to be considered "present".

Aside from an ornamental use, it has no known uses to humans. There has been one documented case of a historical use of the roots of this plant used as a treatment for toothaches when crushed, but the plant is no longer used for this purpose. That would probably suggest that either modern dentistry and pharmacology do the trick, or that this plant relied on the placebo effect and wasn't actually effective against aches and pains of any origin.