Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

You can count on Mexican hat

with 44 comments

Mexican Hat Flower Head 1634

The wildflower called Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera, reaches its flowering peak with the formation of colonies in the late spring, but it’s common to see at least a few of these plants blooming here and there for the rest of the year. When I was at the Arbor Walk Pond on December 26, 2014, I noticed exactly one Mexican hat plant with several flower heads on it, but by then I’d run out of daylight and decided I’d go back soon if I could. The weather over the next couple of days was yucky, but on the morning of the 29th we had sunlight so I returned and took plenty of pictures, including the one shown here. The ray flowers on this Mexican hat, though a bit ragged around the edges, brought welcome bits of brightness to a landscape that has become mostly dun now that winter has arrived.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2015 at 5:37 AM

44 Responses

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  1. A hat for the sun, found in the dun.


    January 6, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    • And now I’ll extend your run
      So we can keep on having fun.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2015 at 7:20 AM

      • Mmmm…my rhyming ability is now exhausted. It is limited. 😦


        January 6, 2015 at 4:52 PM

        • What? You’re dun rhyming? (Far better than being dun gallivanting, of course…)


          January 7, 2015 at 7:58 PM

          • Or being in the dunny. 🙂


            January 7, 2015 at 10:53 PM

            • That went over my (American) head, so I looked it up and found out that in Australia and New Zealand a dunny is a toilet.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 8, 2015 at 9:48 AM

              • That’s the one. But there doesn’t seem to be any common root word for the colour dun and the dunny. I thought there might be.


                January 8, 2015 at 4:58 PM

                • My limited searching led to a statement that the origin of dunny is unknown.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 8, 2015 at 5:07 PM

                • Indeed. And the dunny is an experience which I would rather were unknown to me. As a child going to the dunny terrified me, particularly the one on my great-uncle’s farm which could only be accessed by first going past his barking farm dogs in their row of kennels under the pine trees. One almost needed the toilet before one got there.


                  January 8, 2015 at 5:29 PM

                • I’m sorry that your experiences with the dunny as a child were anything but funny.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 8, 2015 at 5:34 PM

                • Indeed they were not although dunny humour abounds in the Antipodes. Apparently I am not alone in my unhappy dunny experiences. According to the World Toilet Organization thousands of girls stop going to school because of lack of sanitation facilities at school. http://worldtoilet.org/world-toilet-summit-india-to-be-held-in-new-delhi-in-january/ Should this information have a place on your wildflower blog? Possibly not, but with 2.5 billion people without access to basic sanitation, the impact on the environment/plant life is enormous.


                  January 8, 2015 at 10:10 PM

                • Our mindset can influence the way we react to something. Just before following your link I had watched the parody at


                  and for a few moments I thought your story might not be real either. The Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) must have reminded me of the song “Oh, Susanna,” with its lines

                  “It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry,
                  The sun so hot I froze to death, Susanna, don’t you cry.”

                  Alas, the sanitation problem is real, as is the widespread lack of safe water to drink in many parts of the world.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 9, 2015 at 3:12 AM

                • Oh Susanna; my goodness I haven’t heard that song in years. And, until now, I don’t think I had ever realised how nonsensical the lyrics are. Almost as nonsensical as marshmallow farming. 😀


                  January 9, 2015 at 4:49 AM

                • The idea of marshmallow farming reminds me of the practice in Victorian Britain called baby-farming. It plays a key role near the end of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore:

                  Hold! Ere upon your loss
                  You lay much stress,
                  A long-concealed crime
                  I would confess!

                  A many years ago,
                  When I was young and charming,
                  As some of you may know,
                  I practised baby-farming.

                  Now this is most alarming!
                  When she was young and charming,
                  She practised baby-farming,
                  A many years ago.

                  Two tender babes I nursed:
                  One was of low condition,
                  The other, upper crust,
                  A regular patrician.

                  Chorus. (explaining to each other)
                  Now, this is the position:
                  One was of low condition,
                  The other a patrician,
                  A many years ago.

                  Oh, bitter is my cup!
                  However could I do it?
                  I mixed those children up,
                  And not a creature knew it!

                  However could you do it?
                  Some day, no doubt, you’ll rue it,
                  Although no creature knew it,
                  So many years ago.

                  In time each little waif
                  Forsook his foster-mother,
                  The well born babe was Ralph,
                  Your captain was the other!

                  They left their foster-mother,
                  The one was Ralph, our brother,
                  Our captain was the other,
                  A many years ago.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 9, 2015 at 10:44 AM

                • It’s obviously a long time since I paid any attention to H. M .S. Pinafore because I didn’t recall any reference to baby farming. Yet, there it is, in the lyrics you quoted. However more recently I read about baby farming in this well written thriller, Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson. http://www.nicolaupson.com/two_for_sorrow/index.html


                  January 10, 2015 at 1:46 AM

  2. This pic’s a very lovely one!

    A Happy New Year to you, full of good humor, good health, and, periodically, puns both sunny and dunny.


    January 6, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    • That’s a good extension of the rhyme, and in iambic tetrameter to boot.

      Happy New Year to you too, and maybe 2015 will be the year when we figure out how to turn sunny and dunny into money.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2015 at 8:31 AM

  3. Just stunning! a balm for a snowy day in northern Virginia. Thanks!


    January 6, 2015 at 8:34 AM

  4. I am stunned by the sun in the dun.


    January 6, 2015 at 8:48 AM

  5. And would not shun the mon.
    Now I am done.


    January 6, 2015 at 8:49 AM

  6. “…blooming here and there for the rest of the year…”

    Sad to say, none here today. I just got in from clearing the drive and walks of 5″ of white stuff. It was -5˚ this morning. Maybe -15˚ tomorrow.

    Wish you were here. 🙂

    Jim in IA

    January 6, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    • For picture opportunities, sure. For the other aspects of an Iowa winter, well….

      Looking at all your numbers and thinking about divisibility, I noticed you’ve got a fief of five.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2015 at 11:25 AM

      • I was going to use my snowblower to clear the drive. I should have filled the tank last weekend when it was warmer. It wouldn’t start. Paul, my neighbor, came over when he was done with his drive and did mine. Nice guy.

        I dragged my blower into the back entry of the house to let it warm up for 4 or 5 hours. I put it back in the garage, pumped the primer twice, and VROOOOOOOM. It took off first pull.

        You miss out on so much fun.

        Jim in IA

        January 6, 2015 at 2:04 PM

  7. Stunning, and I really need something to calm this day.. The owner of the farm has been defending my honor (via phone) w/the guy at the power company who said we need to purchase the 350.00 parts for 8 houses affected by the power problems.. it’s been an hour or more of nonstop spanish at full volume..

    thanks for listening and for providing a great calming image!

    • I wish I could send you más sosiego, but if this image contributes some, then it’s done more than I expected.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2015 at 12:23 PM

  8. This is a simply beautiful picture. Mexican Hat is one of my favorite flowers. I’ve had them in my garden for years. Their blooming peak seems to be late May through June and July, though they continue to flower into late fall most years if they get enough moisture. I like that the clumps remain green through the winter even though the temperatures do hit the teens and twenties. They do drop a lot of seed and some do still tend to come up even through drought conditions. A great plant!

    • Thanks, and greetings up there in north Texas. I’m happy to hear you’re so fond of Mexican hat, because, as you may know, many Texans have traditionally considered it a weed. It’s one hardy plant, and I’m grateful to have it around for so much of the year, even if only in small numbers now.

      I don’t know if you were visiting this blog last spring, but I showed a strange Mexican hat I found growing in my local nature park:


      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2015 at 2:40 PM

  9. A Mexican Hat Dance in the Dun.

    Steve Gingold

    January 6, 2015 at 1:17 PM

  10. This is one I, too, have grown. It’s a bright spot in the garden, for sure. It didn’t come back the following year, but thanks for the reminder to buy more seed!


    January 6, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    • Good luck in reestablishing your Mexican hat. I’m fortunate to have it growing wild in many places around me, and for most of the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2015 at 9:32 PM

  11. What a beautiful sight in the middle of winter!


    January 6, 2015 at 9:10 PM

    • It’s a welcome sight all right. Happy color to you in a place where winter is really winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2015 at 4:51 AM

      • Merci Steve pour cette divine photo et pour ta visite. Je t’adresse pour toi et pour ta famille et ceux que tu aimes une très bonne Année 2015 et beaucoup de belles photographies.
        Depuis quelques temps je ne suis plus trop sur le net mais je garde le contact..
        bonne semaine


        January 7, 2015 at 5:14 AM

        • Merci, Chantal, j’avais remarqué ton absence sur le net. J’espère que tout ira bien pour toi en 2015.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 7, 2015 at 7:01 AM

  12. I love so much about this shot…the vibrant colours of the flower contrasted against the dazzling blue sky, the contrast of the soft petals with the central spike and the angle you’ve taken it.


    January 7, 2015 at 6:12 PM

    • Thanks for your analysis, Jane, which makes it sound as if I’ve won the Triple Crown with this photo. That’s all right with me, because Mexican hat is a species I don’t ever seem to get tired of. Luckily it’s common in my area, so I’ve had plenty of chances to work with it. The main challenge after several years is finding new ways to portray it. You can consider the angle a part of that quest for a novel view.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2015 at 6:22 PM

  13. I have a feeling your Mexican hats will be dun for a while after this winter blast. They are such beautiful flowers. Lucky for you that you had some blue skies and sunshine to capture this one. I don’t remember noticing those thread-like little protrusions between the ray flowers before. Stamens? I like the way their upward curve is echoed by some of the leaves.


    January 7, 2015 at 8:13 PM

    • With only some flippancy, I’ve often thought that when all else fails, call something a bract and you’re probably right. This time I believe those narrow protruding segments really are bracts.

      It’s not the case these last few weeks that “Nothing but blue skies do I see,” so I had to take advantage of the blue when I had it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 8, 2015 at 9:39 AM

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