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When I Collect Purple Coneflower Seeds

Purple Coneflower seed heads, Urban Gardening, Chicago GardenerJust two years ago I thought collecting seeds in my garden was the easiest thing in the world. I could wait until November and collect fully intact Purple Coneflower seed heads. The only obstacles I encountered where the occasional humans who dug out plants or pulled the cones from my plants. I could wait until the cone had tuned black and some of the stem started to blacken and die before I cut off the heads and saved them for trades or for sowing back into the garden.

This year the situation has been complicated by the arrival of birds like the American Goldfinch in my garden. Last year I spotted them for the first time in my garden eating some sunflower seeds. This year I decided to plant extra sunflowers to see if they would return-they did. Being able to introduce this bird to my family and visitors to my garden has been worth every penny I paid for the seeds.

One day I found my mother sitting in her car across the street from the house staring at the wall of sunflowers that grow along the fence. When I walked up to the car and tapped on the window to ask her if she was OK she informed me she had been sitting out there for an hour counting the yellow birds she'd never seen before.

As my tiny urban garden evolves and more critters find their way into it to take advantage of plants that set fruit or seeds I can see that I will have to adapt to them in order to coexist peacefully. When I collect Purple Coneflower seeds will have to change because I can tell already that leaving them on the stems and waiting for the plant to die down will not be working this year. You see, the American Goldfinches are even better at noticing ripe seed heads in the garden than I am. Not content with dozens of sunflowers to choose from they have been picking at the Coneflower heads that have blackened on the stem. Besides the change in color I now know that the seed heads are ripe (or close to it) when the birds have started to snack on them.


  1. Those goldfinches have the beak to sniff out seed from quite a distance. They are enjoying the sunflower seeds and the cosmos seeds in my garden right now and the purple coneflowers won't be far behind.
    But, like you said, it is certainly worth the price of a few seeds to see them flitting from plant to plant.

  2. Do you suppose that putting cheesecloth over the cones would deter the goldfinches? I saw little 'scarves' over the heads of some peony-flowered poppies at Kingsbrae Garden this week--perfect way to keep the seeds in while the capsule ripens. Might work for coneflowers too, but I haven't tried this. We have both purple and goldfinches here, and they are a joy to watch, as you observe.

  3. Crafty,

    If I could I'd catch one and put a collar on it and take it with me on walks so it could detect the ripe seeds around here. They're sort of like the drug-sniffing dogs of the garden. I love how they will eat around seeds that aren't ready to get at the ripe ones. What they do is amazing when you think about it.


    I'm going to do that in a couple of weeks with the last of my sunflowers and a few zinnias so I have some for next year. I have too many PCF as it is in the garden so I'm not too worried about them. Plus birds are sloppy eaters and they'll leave some behind.

    Thanks to the two of you for stopping by and commenting. Like always it is much appreciated.

  4. I think you are lucky to have so many birds in the garden. My bird population increases in fall, winter and spring and seems to become sparse in the summer. I am curious to see how my Coneflower seedheads fare.

  5. I find that the birds leave plenty of seeds for new plants next year. I started with a couple of purple cone flowers and now they are starting to take over the flower bed all by them selves. This last spring I even transplanted a couple dozen.

  6. I thank my little gold finches for all that they do for me.. I have had several volunteer coneheads this year because of them... I have a two couples that come every morning.

  7. Your birds are great connoisseurs and can you blame them? They've been spoiled rotten! Nice post, MBT. Really enjoyed it!

  8. Anonymous4:15 PM

    Thank you for this info!! I have recently become a seed collector and can't wait to harvest my coneflowers...



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