Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mexican pre-hat

with 38 comments

Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera, typically reaches its flowering peak here in May, but scattered plants can be found blooming through the summer and into the fall. When I wandered along the embankment of the expressway called Mopac two days ago, I found that, like various other native species in this remarkably mild winter, some Mexican hat was already flowering well before its usual time too. What you 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 what will become the “column” that’s mentioned in the species name columnifera? And isn’t it strange that there’s not a hint of the bright yellow and rich reddish brown that are to come, and that almost everyone remembers when they think of Mexican hat?

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 3, 2012 at 5:17 AM

38 Responses

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  1. So beautiful… What a magical this world… Thank you dear Steve, have a nice weekend,with my love, nia


    February 3, 2012 at 5:25 AM

  2. I grow these out back and once the blooms happen the chickens eat them. Every one. Perhaps it is their bright coloring? However, I must confess I never looked this closely at the budding form till you shared it with us today. It is so lovely! ~ Lynda

    PS: Thanks for saving me from having to look up imbricated. 😉


    February 3, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    • Although in English we call this Mexican hat, the Spanish name is gallitos, which means little roosters, based on the shape and color of the mature flower heads.

      I’ve often enough looked at the very small flower heads when they start developing but I don’t think I’d ever noticed one with purple like this.

      For someone who’s already doubly pixilated
      It might have been fun to look up imbricated,
      But I went ahead and included the link in case
      People didn’t have time for a dictionary chase.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 7:40 AM

      • I like gallitos better! In the case of my moniker, the 2 stands in for too, as in “as well” because too was already taken. Sadly, most people don’t even know what “pixilated” means and the online dictionaries don’t give it a good explanation. So, they usually think it refers to the old computer CRTs. However, the phrase comes from the old movie “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” which is a Frank Capra classic featuring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. ( Don’t waste your time on the recent remake. It is a travesty.) Somehow, I suspect you already knew all of this… and aren’t I going on a bit?

        I’m slow this morning just realized that your last paragraph was in rhyme. 😉
        ~ L


        February 3, 2012 at 8:37 AM

      • Happy gallitos to you, then. And speaking of names, yes, I knew what you were referring to when you chose your online name. I’m appalled that anyone would have dared to remake of that film; even if I’d known about it I wouldn’t have gone to see it.

        And don’t worry about going on a bit:
        Comments are the proper place for it.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 3, 2012 at 9:02 AM

  3. You know I’m not familiar with wildflowers or botany but I did want to leave you a comment and let you know how exquisite your images are. Excellent job!


    February 3, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    • I appreciate your comment, Edith. Until I began working on my photo CD of Austin in 1999, I knew almost nothing about the native plants here, but I bought some books and hung around with the right people. Here it is 13 years later, and I keep learning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 9:47 AM

  4. I also love how the background has a hint of purple. Hmmm, how did you accomplish that?

    Bonnie Michelle

    February 3, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    • I noticed that too and was pleased to see it, but this time I’ll have to confess that it was a happy accident: I don’t remember what caused that faint echo of soft color. In looking back at my “digital contact sheet” I see that it’s in a few other images, but always equally out of focus, so I have nothing to go on. Some things are planned and some things aren’t, and sometimes the unplanned ones work out well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 10:20 AM

  5. Hi Steve – great photos and descriptions … would love to have your knowledge … but I’m looking forward to visiting more often ..

    Thanks for coming over to my blog Pos Lets and commenting .. kind of you and interesting that we’ve imported and exported invasive species .. both ways .. UK – USA, USA – UK .. and yes the grey squirrel is a scourge – there are a few pockets of the red squirrel left.

    Cheers – I’ll love checking out your posts .. Hilary


    February 3, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    • Thanks, Hilary. I’ve sometimes wanted to visit Europe and Asia so that when I see the species from there that have become invasive here I don’t have to cringe and can enjoy them for their own sake. In any case, I like the articles you write on your blog; I know some people who come here would enjoy them too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      • Hi Steve .. appreciate your thoughts … and yes we have plenty of weeds of dandelions, daisies etc .. but they look glorious in all their wildlife glory – though we have a wee Siberian break at the moment – freezing weather … waiting for some of that white stuff! Cheers Hilary


        February 3, 2012 at 12:23 PM

  6. What a pretty bud! And a surprise to follow the link to see the flower in bloom… I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Mexican hat. I heard that the cherry blossoms are blooming too early in Washington, DC – what a strange winter we’re having this year…

    Barbara Rodgers

    February 3, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    • In a way it’s good that you didn’t know what a mature Mexican hat flower head looks like, as the contrast would have been at its maximum for you.

      Yes, it’s warm in places other than Texas: a couple of days ago I was surprised to hear that it was 61° in New York. You’ll almost certainly still get a freeze in Connecticut, but down here we may not. I’d hate to see the flowers that are coming out get killed off.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

  7. Si, aca hay unas flores impresionantes, muy bonitas y muy coloridas; pero el cielo no es azul completamente, ni es normal verlo así todo el tiempo.
    Que buena foto Steven, esos colores están bellísimos.
    Un saludo!

    Pablo Buitrago

    February 3, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    • Pablo confirms that there are impressive and colorful flowers in Colombia. He notes that skies there aren’t totally blue, nor is it normal to have blue skies all the time. There have been times when the pictures I’ve posted might have given the impression of “all blue all the time,” and although that’s not how it always is in central Texas, it was true for weeks on end in Austin during last year’s drought.

      In any case, Pablo, I’m glad you like this picture and its pastel colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

  8. It really is going to look different when it blooms! Thanks for viewing the “big mouths” on my page.


    February 3, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    • Yes, the change is a big one. As you saw the big mouths in your orchids, I sometimes read things into the plants I see here: that’s what our imaginations are for, right?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 3:04 PM

  9. I absolutely love it and the touches of purple – love the color purple:) Thanks for sharing and Have a Great Weekend!


    February 3, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    • Since you like the color purple, tomorrow’s wildflower should make for an adventurous beginning to the weekend.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2012 at 4:14 PM

  10. Details and colors are so perfect. Great picture 🙂

    Spiral Dreamer (Francis)

    February 3, 2012 at 6:07 PM

  11. This picture looks so neat, all fuzzy and I love the pattern. Beautiful.

    Connie T

    February 3, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    • It is fuzzy, and I hadn’t noticed how fuzzy till then. The developed flower head loses most of that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 7:05 AM

  12. I am continually fascinated by the plants that are budding and blooming there this time of year! I love your photos!


    February 3, 2012 at 11:04 PM

    • Yes, it’s such a different world here from your snow-covered one in Montana. Visiting here gives you a chance to warm up and “floralize” a bit when you can’t easily do it there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 7:41 AM

  13. Steve, thank you for my word of the day — “imbricate”. I learn something new every time I read your blog!

    Renee Voss

    February 4, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    • The lover of words lives inside the same brain as the nature photographer. Sometimes they even talk to each other. Next time you rearrange the cans in your kitchen closet you can imbricate them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 7:45 AM

  14. This is stunning Steve and the muted background really helps it pop! Your blog posts are so informative. Thank you for sharing your passion!


    February 4, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    • I’m all for muted backgrounds to enhance my subjects. Sharing a passion for a subject is fun, isn’t it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM

  15. A very beautiful and unusual plant


    February 6, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    • It’s good that in your case we can’t say “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Historically, and maybe still, many Texans have considered this very common plant a weed. I wish they could see it as you do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2012 at 10:27 AM

  16. Yep, definitely attractive. Great structure, textures, form, coloration. I’m even gladder now that my home brew of wildflower seeds contains some Mexican Hat babies. Now if only I can get some patches ready and keep them safe from bird, squirrel and weather depredations long enough to bloom . . .


    February 6, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    • May your Mexican hat babies thrive, and may you enjoy them as they grow up and pass through all their appealing phases, sans depredations of all sorts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2012 at 10:31 PM

  17. […] The developing Mexican hat that you saw on February 3: mowed down. […]

  18. Oh my goodness, what beautiful photos! I love this one! Thank you so much for commenting on my blog so that I could find yours. 🙂


    Edible Psychology

    February 8, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    • You’re welcome, and nice meeting you. I’m sorry to add, as you can see in a follow-up post today, that this young plant has been mowed down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2012 at 11:10 AM

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