Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mexican hat

with 31 comments

Another species that I found flowering near the Arbor Walk Pond on the still-cloudy afternoon of November 8 was Ratibida columnifera, commonly known in Texas as Mexican hat due to the resemblance of its “column” to the tall central part of the iconic broad-brimmed hats worn by Mexican men. These flowers have their heyday in late spring, when they can form large colonies, but it’s not unusual to see a few isolated plants flowering here or there during the summer and well into the fall.

Ratibida columnifera, also called upright prairie coneflower, made its flowering debut in this column in a supporting role in a July 26 picture showing a couple of Mexican hat flower heads beneath a snow-on-the-mountain plant that hadn’t yet flowered itself. In today’s view, the spiraling ranks of disk flowers are just beginning to appear on the central column.

For more information, and to see a clickable map of the many places in the United States and Canada where this species is found, you can visit the USDA website. Mexican hat also grows, appropriately, in northern Mexico.

For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and 2 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2011 at 5:06 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Another beautiful photo…I love the name!

    Just A Smidgen

    November 15, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    • Thanks for the compliment. As for the name, If you lived in Texas rather than Alberta you’d have heard of Mexican hats because they’re so common here. The USDA map claims that this species grows in Alberta and neighboring provinces, but it may be rare there. Let’s hope you’ll run across some.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2011 at 7:28 AM

  2. Again you show me a flower I have not seen. I laughed at the distribution map… just about everywhere but here and Virginia, my home state. No wonder I’ve never met this pretty flower. 🙂 I love the color in the petals.


    November 15, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    • Happy new to you, but sorry that you’re not included in the distribution.

      I’ve always been fond of these flowers, but some people in Texas consider them weeds. The color in the rays varies, with the yellow that you see here only at the tip sometimes filling pretty much the whole ray; at other times the reddish-brown predominates even more than shown here and there’s practically no yellow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2011 at 9:23 AM

  3. Great portrait of a “Mexican hat”. I personally have not seen one, not even at the local botanical garden.


    November 15, 2011 at 10:52 AM

  4. It’s gorgeous! Wow!


    November 16, 2011 at 12:20 AM

  5. I’m amazed by how many flowers you find!


    November 16, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    • I have three more species of flowers from the embankment at the Arbor Walk Pond set to show you this week. I’ve been surprised by the number of flowers I’ve found in spite of the drought—some now helped by the little bits of rain we’ve had recently (including half an inch yesterday in my part of town).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2011 at 6:52 AM

      • Good to hear that you got some rain.


        November 16, 2011 at 6:57 AM

      • We’re grateful for whatever we get, but we’re still horribly below average for the year.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 16, 2011 at 7:05 AM

  6. Now, let me tread carefully here. Many, many older Texans I know, especially out in the areas west and south of San Antonio, call these – unabashedly – by the name that got Rick Perry in trouble because the word was painted on a rock.

    Apparently knowledge about the genesis of the ranch name is spreading – you can find it easily now with a quick search. But I was astonished, when the kerfluffle first came up, that so many Texas newspeople and commentators didn’t seem to understand that the “popular” name has been around since before 1900. A woman I knew for years before she died used to refer to her place on the caprock as “….. ranch”, because of the abundance of the flowers there. I asked her once if she knew another name for the flower. She gave me “that look” and said, “Some folks call it a coneflower”.


    November 18, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    • When the brouhaha about the ranch name came up, I immediately thought about this flower. I didn’t grow up here, but I know people who did and who are familiar with the old name. In my research into the native plant species of Texas, I found the name in old books, including, for example, Texas Wild Flowers, by Ellen D. Schulz. Her book is “Dedicated to the Children and Flower-Loving Public of Texas.” I found the word in use as late as 1965 in material intended for use in the elementary schools of Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2011 at 10:55 PM

  7. Lovely shot of this stunning flower


    November 22, 2011 at 12:32 AM

    • Thank you. It’s too bad that so many people in Texas have considered this species a weed. I never get tired of photographing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 22, 2011 at 12:38 AM

  8. Pristine with stylish look. Great macro shot so rare!


    November 22, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    • Thanks you, Firas. I’ll have to admit that this flower is abundant in Austin, even if people don’t always appreciate it as much as you and I do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 22, 2011 at 1:22 PM

  9. […] picture shows a more advanced stage than the fresh one you saw in the middle of November. Now the “column” is drying out and the rays, quite variable in their distribution of […]

  10. […] see here is an earlier stage in the development of a flower head than the one you may recall from a photograph taken on November 8 of last year. In this new picture, don’t you love the fuzziness and the imbricated purple and white on […]

  11. […] Here you see primarily two species that have already appeared in individual views in these pages, Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) and coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria). Note that the rays of the Mexican hats […]

  12. […] is just that, a variation within the same species. I showed closeups of this type of wildflower on November 15 and December 28, in case you’d like to be reminded of the […]

  13. […] these pages may remember the Ratibida columnifera, commonly known as Mexican hat, that starred in a post a year ago (and if not, you may want to follow that link back so you know what the wildflower looks like in […]

  14. […] These searches apparently brought people to a picture of a Mexican hat. […]

  15. Even before I read the word ‘coneflower’, this photo did bring to my mind that it is almost like the echinacea plant, or echinacea purpurea (I think), used in medicine, where the central part is a lot flatter and the petals are usually one colour. But, this is a lovely plant too!


    January 11, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    • This is in the same large botanical family, Asteraceae, as Echinacea, a genus represented by several native species in Texas. Echinacea purpurea grows natively in other parts of Texas, but gardeners in Austin often plant it because the flowers are so pretty.

      And here’s a coincidence: I took this picture at the same place as the spent sunflower seed head you recently commented on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      • Aahh, thank you, I thought so (re the echinacea plant). And, yes, the flowers are very pretty, I agree!


        January 13, 2013 at 10:57 PM

  16. […] prominent wildflowers here are coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.). The darker flower heads below them are Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera), and you can also make out some dried remains of the same at the lower left. […]

  17. […] what a Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera, looks like? If not, you’re welcome to look back at a fresh one flowering. In the dry state shown in today’s post, not much remains of the hat or the outer part of its […]

  18. […] Hills Park in my neighborhood. I noticed a Mexican hat plant, Ratibida columnifera that had some normal flower heads but also had 10 heads (I counted) with an extra set of ray flowers growing helter-skelter from the […]

  19. […] coneflower. Its flower heads look like those of the brown-eyed (or black-eyed) susan and the Mexican hat, but the leaves are quite different and really do clasp the plant’s […]

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