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Ratibida pinnata (Grayhead coneflower)
Cressler, Alan

Ratibida pinnata

Ratibida pinnata (Vent.) Barnhart

Grayhead Coneflower, Gray-headed Coneflower, Grayhead Mexican Hat, Gray-headed Mexican Hat, Pinnate Prairie Coneflower, Yellow Coneflower

Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Synonym(s): Lepachys pinnata, Rudbeckia pinnata


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

A slender, hairy-stemmed plant bearing flower heads with drooping, yellow rays surrounding a roundish to ellipsoid, grayish central disk darkening to brown as rays drop off. Gray-head mexican-hat is a 3-5 ft. tall, summer perennial with a somewhat branched stem. One or several flowers, each on its own long stalk, may top a single stem. The yellow rays (petals) droop downward and are arranged around a grayish-brown cone. Lower leaves are long and divided into leaflets, while the upper leaves are smaller.

A similar species, Upright Prairie Coneflower (R. columnifera), is a shorter plant; its central disk is columnar, 2-4 1/2 times as long as thick. Because these species are palatable to livestock, the plants tend to diminish with heavy grazing of rangeland. When bruised, the central disk exudes an anise scent.


From the Image Gallery

33 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MI , MN , MO , MS , NE , NY , OH , OK , PA , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: W. PA & s. Ont. to MN, SD & NE, s. to GA, LA & OK
Native Habitat: Prairies; thickets; woodland edges

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Tolerant of a wide range of soils: sandy to clay and calcareous soils.
Conditions Comments: This tall, showy plant needs competition in small areas. tall stems may require support.


Use Wildlife: Birds, Butterflies
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Dependably propagated from seed, which is produced abundantly. Sow unstratified seed in fall; stratified seed in spring. Clumps can also be divided.
Seed Collection: Seeds mature in autumn.
Seed Treatment: Moist stratification improves germination.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Research Literature

Reslit 632 - Establishing North American prairie vegetation in urban parks in northern England - Part 1. Effect of sowing season, sowing rate and soil type (2004) J. Hitchmough, M. de la Fleur and C. Findlay
Reslit 760 - Light utilization and competition between Echinacea purpurea, Panicum virgatum and Ratibida pinnata under greenhouse and field conditions (2002) M. Knee and L. C. Thomas
Reslit 2704 - Forb species establishment increases with decreased grass seeding density and with increased forb seeding density in a Northeast Kansas, USA, experimental prairie restoration (2009) T. L. Dickson, W. H. Busby
Reslit 2759 - The effect of burning and insect herbivory on seed production of two prairie forbs (1987) M. A. Davis, K. M. Lemon, A. M. Dybvig
Reslit 2760 - Timing of transplanting affects survival of prairie perennial forb seedlings (1995) R. D. Kemery, M. N. Dana
Reslit 2761 - Influence of inoculation with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae on posttransplant growth of prairie forb seedlings (2000) R. D. Kemery, M. N. Dana
Reslit 2762 - Survival and growth of wildflowers with buffalo grass or blue grama grass (2005) D. T. Lindgren, D. Schaaf
Reslit 2765 - Investigating predictors of plant establishment during roadside restoration (2012) N. L. Haan, M. R. Hunter, M. D. Hunter
Reslit 2766 - Do priority effects benefit invasive plants more than native plants? An experiment with six grassland species (2012) T. L. Dickson, J. L. Hopwood, B. J. Wilsey

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

Additional resources

USDA: Find Ratibida pinnata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Ratibida pinnata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Ratibida pinnata


Record Modified: 2015-11-16
Research By: TWC Staff

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