If you’ve never seen Echinacea purpurea bloom, it doesn’t really bloom by unfurling its petals like a typical flower. Instead, it sticks out tiny little petals that slowly grow out in a ring along the edge of the flat top of the flower, and while they grow they slowly turn purple. Then the cone of the flower elongates as the petals droop over and backwards, and you get the characteristic-looking echinacea flower.
Echinacea purpurea is closely related to Echinacea angustifolia, each being in the same genus (Echinacea). They look very similar, except that the petals of E. angustifolia are narrower, and in my opinion, they’re a lighter purple color. The uses for both E. purpurea and E. angustifolia are very similar (treating and preventing colds, boosting the immune system, etc.) It is often the root that is used. It is harvested in its second or third year of growth, dried, and powdered, then used to make a tea.
Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ is a variety of E. purpurea that is quite popular due to its wide, non-drooping petals that spreads in more of a ‘ray’ around the center of the flower. The color is nearly identical to E. purpurea, with perhaps slightly more pink.
In order to properly use this herb medicinally and in teas, I recommend purchasing a good herbal. (The one I trust the most is my copy of Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. There are several out there, but I’ve found conflicting information in a few, and whenever I’ve done research to dig out the truth, Rodale’s is always spot on and it has a TON of info, so I definitely recommend them first.)
Both the Echinaceas and the Rudbeckia genera (plural of genus) are in the Asteracea (daisy) family. The Rudbeckias are commonly known as Black-Eyed Susans.