Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fresh Mexican hats

with 21 comments

Mexican Hat Flower Head Forming by Open Flowers 7919

Even in December and January I saw an occasional Mexican hat flowering, something that’s not unusual for Ratibida columnifera, although the faded remains of plants at that time of year far outnumber the living ones. Now, a month and a half into 2013, new growth is hard to miss: I found this group near the corner of Braker Lane and Stonelake Blvd. in northwest Austin on February 14. As I lay on the ground within a couple of feet of the right edge of the right lane, I had to ignore all the cars passing by and I hoped the drivers would ignore me. (At another Mexican hat that I photographed around the corner, a driver did pull over to see if I was okay, but he saw that I was, waved to me, and took off.)

Mexican hat grows not only in Mexico and Texas but also in large parts of the United States and Canada, as you can see from the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2013 at 6:16 AM

21 Responses

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  1. It’s good to see a fresh flower! What is in the background? I tend to look like I’m carrying all my belongings on my back when I’m on the trail and I get pretty dirty sometimes as well and I’ve had people totally disbelieve my claim I was only lying down to take a photo.

    Bernadette

    February 18, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    • It is good to see fresh flowers again, a sight that’s more warmly welcomed in colder climates but still here as well.

      There’s an old saying that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. There was no safe way for me to defeat the cars coming along by putting myself out in a lane of traffic with them, but I ended up using the roadway as a neutral background. It was far enough out of focus—as was everything except the “thimble” of the forming flower head—that the pavement isn’t recognizable as such and doesn’t spoil this view of nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2013 at 8:17 AM

  2. Maybe you should make a sign that you can put up to warn people. It might say:
    “Caution: Eccentric Photograph Ahead”

    Lloyd Ewing

    February 18, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    • I’ve thought of a sign, though a simpler (and less eccentric) one like “I’m OK.” The problem is that I’d rarely know in advance when I’d need the sign and I wouldn’t want to have to lug it around with me just for those rare occasions when it might help.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2013 at 10:55 AM

  3. we get a few up this way. 🙂 not yet, though.

    TexWisGirl

    February 18, 2013 at 11:01 AM

  4. Such clean, beautiful lines – and a nice reminder of the Fibonacci numbers. We have lots of Helianthus annuus coming back now, and wild lantana, too. It won’t be long!

    shoreacres

    February 18, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    • A few hours ago I looked at the spirals on the “thimble” of this developing flower head and was reminded that those spirals are closely related to and often embody the Fibonacci numbers.

      Yesterday I was surprised to see some Helianthus annuus plants flowering, something I’ve never seen in February. I also noticed a Maximilian sunflower plant with flowers on it. Strangeness continues.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM

  5. I look forward to the day when someone takes a picture of the photographer, flat on the ground in search of the perfect shot (as this one is).

    Susan Scheid

    February 19, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    • You mean someone should take a picture of me when I’m planted flat on the ground? Sounds appropriate for a native plant photographer transplanted from your state to Texas. Hats off to you for suggesting it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      • Oh, did I ever ask for that! The transplant planted, love that!

        Susan Scheid

        February 19, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        • Sorry, you left me an opening for wordplay that I couldn’t resist. I could say that I’ll try to keep it in check, but I won’t.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 19, 2013 at 7:44 PM

  6. Very nice. Is it just coming into flower?

    thinkingcowgirl

    February 21, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    • Isolated plants are, but I’d say the peak is usually around May. That said, this species is opportunistic, and I’ve found a few flowers even in the hottest part of the Texas summer and in our mild winter (which can still get down to freezing).

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      • Actually I meant the flower in the pic…do the petals get bigger and longer?

        thinkingcowgirl

        February 21, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        • In the foreground you see a flower head that’s just forming, with a green “thimble” at its center and some rays beginning to jut out. Further back, out of focus, are some fully developed Mexican hat flower heads. You can see a closeup of a fully developed flower head in a post from 2011. The rays are colored yellow and reddish brown, with the amount of each capable of varying quite a lot.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 21, 2013 at 1:14 PM

          • Wow, that’s amazing. We Europeans are in love with your prairie flowers but I’ve never come across this species. Maybe it’s too tender for our climes.

            thinkingcowgirl

            February 22, 2013 at 10:28 AM

            • In looking at the USDA map, I see that this species grows as far north as Canada, so I don’t think we can call Mexican hats tender. If they can survive a Canadian winter, I expect you could cultivate some of them in Europe. Just be careful, because if they escape cultivation they’re likely to spread rapidly and become an alien invasive there. Even here in Texas, where they’re native, many people used to (and may still) consider them weeds. Of course I’m all for such pretty “weeds.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 22, 2013 at 10:49 AM

              • There’s no such word in my vocabulary! Only a plant in the place one doesn’t want it to be 🙂 It does bear a little resemblance to Echinacea and Helenium I will look it up. Certainly wouldn’t want to give room to an alien invasive…japanese knotweed is the most serious problem here. We do have Erigeron karvinskianus and that has escaped, mainly in urban areas, but not too invasively. A fellow Australian blogger has been telling me about all the problems over there – particularly with SA natives. And the good old forget-me-not…a chance would be a fine thing!

                thinkingcowgirl

                February 24, 2013 at 8:30 AM

                • For some years I’ve had the idea of doing a photo book featuring only native plants that have weed in their common name, of which there are more than two dozen species right here in Austin. (In fact for the last few weeks I’ve been working on just such a book.)

                  You’re correct that the genus Ratibida is in the same botanical family as Helenium, Echinacea, and Erigeron, namely Asteraceae, the sunflower family. More species in Texas belong to that family than to any other.

                  The one time I visited Australia, in 2005, I was surprised one afternoon when I took a walk in nature and came across a species of lantana that is native to Texas. So if you do grow some Mexican hats for a change, maybe you should keep them in pots indoors to minimize the chance that they’ll escape into the wild.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  February 24, 2013 at 9:53 AM

  7. […] Tetraneuris linearifolia. The place was close to the spot on Braker Ln. where I’d found an early Mexican hat flowering in […]


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