The scientific name is ratibida columnifera, but the common name, Mexican hat, does not come close to describing this beautiful wildflower.
Conehead is another common name that also does not do it justice. The flower heads are held on tall solitary stalks and come in three color combinations. I discovered all three on our Farm-to-Market road and was immediately fascinated with this abundant wildflower.
In early, early spring, these plants may be located by looking for mounds of dark green foliage. The two to four inch leaves are alternate and dissected in five to 13 narrow segments. Each segment can also be lobed or divided again. Its leafy mound is a refreshing sight at winterís end.
The stems stretch up in May with lots of blooms and continue sporadically till frost. The upper part of the cone is bare. Below that portion is a band of tiny disk flowers in green or brown, then there are petals drooping down in all yellow, all reddish brown or yellow and reddish brown. In a flower bed, the mound can grow to be two feet high and wide.
Mexican hat grows anywhere in Texas that has good drainage and full sun to mostly full sun. It has a tap root and can be cut back in summer when blooming lags, but avoid injuring the rosette. It will be evergreen in mild winters.
In my yard, it was first a perennial that I mowed around until it had bloomed. Without much forethought, I mowed it after the top was kind of brown from lack of water.
The flowerbed that was close by grew and I laid the edging to include the clump of Mexican hat. Now, it is mulched and it gets some water, when it doesn't rain.
This plant is also supposed to be deer resistant. If that isn't enough, Mexican hat also makes a nice cutting flower, which lasts quite well in a vase.
There are many nurseries that carry native plants now. You might also have friends in the country that would give you permission to dig a clump of Mexican hat from a pasture or private road. If you decide to transplant a clump of Mexican hat now, do it as soon as possible.
It would be better to mark a clump when it is blooming and then move it in the late fall. Though this is an abundant wildflower, it is a rule of nature and man to leave plenty of plants to continue growing, blooming and multiplying.
For more information on this or any gardening question, contact the Johnson County Master gardener Association† at www.jcmga.org, e-mail† www.jcmga.org or call Pat Kriener at 817-793-4625
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only. References to products and trade names are for identification only and do not imply endorsement or criticism of similar products by Johnson County Master Gardener Association or the Texas Cooperative Extension.
Claudine Young is a Johnson County Master Gardener Wildbunch Writer and a regular contributor to the Alvarado Post.