Grey Headed Coneflower

Grey headed Coneflower is a North American wildflower with eye-catching yellow flowers that entice birds and pollinators. This perennial is ideal for natural plantings and meadows. It is known as the gray-headed Mexican hat, and it also goes by the names pinnate prairie coneflower, yellow coneflower, and gray-headed coneflower.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Ratibita Pinnata

Botanical Family: Asteraceae

Also Called: Pinnate prairie coneflower, yellow coneflower

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Water: Tolerates drought

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A thin, hairy-stemmed plant that produces flower heads with yellow rays that droop around a grayish, roundish disk that darkens to brown as the rays fall off. A 3-5 ft. tall summer perennial with a moderately branching stem, gray-head Mexican hat. A single stem may bear one or several flowers, each on its own long stalk. Around a grayish-brown cone, the yellow rays (petals) are arranged in a downward-curving pattern. The upper leaves are smaller, while the lower leaves are longer and separated into leaflets.

Grey Headed Coneflower Uses

Gray-headed coneflower can be used for roadside plantings, prairie restoration, wildflower gardens, pollinator gardens, wildlife cover, landscaping, and plant diversity in prairie communities. The cone grows into a head of tiny, brown seeds that lack hair tufts but are compressed and have one or two teeth-like projections.

Growing Grey Headed Coneflower

In its natural environment, the gray-headed coneflower is simple to care for. It is a rhizomatous perennial which grows in a variety of soils, including those with a lot of sand, thick clay, or those that are dry. It can endure drought as well. Despite preferring full sun, gray-headed coneflower can tolerate some shade. These flowers are simple to grow from seed. Once they reach maturity, they won’t require much care or watering. Just make sure the soil is well-drained and won’t become damp before planting them. As the blooms start to fade, gray-headed coneflower seeds form on the cone and are effective for spreading the plant. The seed heads can either be collected or left in place to reseed. Another method of propagation is division.

By disking and harrowing the seedbed or using chemical weed control, make sure it is clean and free of weeds. Cultipacking helps the seedbed get firm. The seedbed needs to be stable enough for seeds to be sown 1/8 inch deep. The optimal time to sow gray-headed coneflower is during the dormant winter season since the seed requires two months of cold, wet stratification (35-40 degrees F.). This is the typical amount of time needed to emerge from dormancy; however, some species need one or even three months. Use a planter, such as a brillion roller, to handle and distribute seed uniformly and ensure proper sowing depth and adequate seed and soil contact. Approximately 480,000 gray-headed coneflower seeds make up one pound of the plant.

Habitat and Where They Grow

The gray-headed coneflower requires calcareous soils with a neutral pH range of 6-7. It thrives best in sunny areas with well-drained loam, clay, and sandy soils. Occurs in lush to dry highland forests, upland grasslands, glades, savannas, stream banks, fencerows, pastures, railroads, and roadsides. It is also found in the openings and borders of these forests. It is also grown for decorative purposes in gardens.

Popular natural plants for flower gardening are prairie coneflowers. Native Americans brewed tea from the blossoms and leaves of these plants and utilized them for a number of medical purposes. The disks have a faint anise scent when rubbed.

With the Nature

Attracted to the flowers, bees, butterflies, and other insects feed on the nectar to aid in cross-pollination. The leaves are consumed by a variety of herbivores, which can be anything from caterpillars and woodchucks.

It has a sombrero-like center with petals of yellow hanging from it. The perfume of the gray-headed prairie coneflower is one of its distinctive features. You can smell anise if you bruise the middle cone.

Other common coneflower variants include Echinacea species, which all have spiny disks, simple leaves, and pinkish or purple flowers, with the exception of yellow coneflower (E. paradoxa). Black-eyed Susan and other rudbeckia species are also referred to as coneflowers. Their leaves are typically unlobed, just like echinaceas, but they don’t have spiny disks.

Sources and References

Missouri Dept of Conservation

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