Editor’s note: Part 3 of the “Human Interaction with Nature” series focuses on an endangered plant species: echinacea. This post, and the accompanying podcast, were created by Bobby Grace, and originally published on Friday, May 19th, 2008.
I spoke with KU professor, ethnobotanist, and Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie author Kelly Kindscher about the sustainability of Echinacea.
Echinacea is a species native to Kansas that is used as a general cure all and as protection against the common cold. In the United States, herbal medicine has gone by the wayside and today the main importer of Echinacea is Europe. The demand has leveled off, but there are still people harvesting the species.
The plant was heavily harvested during the herbal products boom of the late nineties. Harvesters were using shovels and pick axes to dig up roots and capitalize on the rush. Kelly’s work focuses on the harvesting techniques associated with Echinacea. He’s found that Echinacea is a very resilient species and will re-sprout even after a great amount of harvest.
Kelly believes the preservation and respect for native prairie habitat is the primary means for maintaining the species. Kelly’s work stresses the resilience of nature. Even after heavy harvest, Echinacea stands strong.