Endangered coneflower making comeback thanks to North Carolina efforts

Daisy-like flowers, with slender lavender-hued petals, are once again thriving across the country. The smooth coneflower has been endangered for decades, but it's making a comeback thanks largely in part to the work in North Carolina.

The plants are being cultivated large scale at only a few places nationwide and the North Carolina Botanical Garden, part of UNC-Chapel Hill, is one of them.

"It's really incredible," said North Carolina Botanical Gardens Conservation Director Dr. Johnny Randall. "This (area) is a hotbed for smooth coneflower."

Conservationists planted several seeds at Penny's Bend Nature Preserve in Durham County.

Randall said the center has received anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 to purchase land and manage the habitat.

"No plant species will go extinct as long as we are in the business," said Randall. "It's really incredible to see how well this plant has recovered."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the flower endangered in 1992.

It thrived in places along highways, right-of-way, dry slopes and other disturbed places. It was lost to pine plantation, as well as highway and gas pipeline construction.

Biologists were able to bring back the flowers using a fire method to control vegetation -- which allowed the plant to receive abundant sunlight with light competition from other surrounding plants.

Conservationists will continue to work on the coneflowers so they flourish in the future.

The smooth coneflower has been endangered since 1992 but the flower is making a comeback thanks to efforts throughout North Carolina.
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