Ratibida pinnata (Gray-headed Coneflower)
|Also known as:
|Pinnate Prairie Coneflower, Yellow Coneflower
|sun; fields, prairies, along roads
|June - August
|3 to 7 feet
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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1 to 12 flower heads at the top of the plant, single at the tips of long stalks and the tips of branching stems. Flowers have up to 15 spreading to drooping yellow petals (ray flowers), each about 2 inches long, surrounding an erect, round to oval cone ½ to ¾ inches tall. The cone is gray-brown or greenish, covered in hundreds of tiny brown disk flowers that bloom from the bottom of the cone up. The bracts surrounding the base of the flower are narrowly triangular and rough from short, stiff hairs. The long, naked flower stalks are rough and slightly ridged or angled.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves near the base of the plant are up to 8 inches long and 5 inches wide, deeply divided into 3 to 7 narrow lobes that may be further divided, or are coarsely toothed. Lower leaves are long stalked, leaves becoming smaller with fewer lobes and shorter stalks as the ascend the stem, the uppermost leaves unlobed and stalkless. Leaves feel rough from short stiff hairs. Stems are unbranched except in the flowers, ridged, rough-hairy, and may create clumps or colonies from spreading rhizomes.
I sometimes think that if you've seen one coneflower, you've seen them all, but each species is indeed unique. Gray-headed Coneflower is a much taller plant than the related Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), blooms later, and has much larger leaves. Cut-leaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) is also a tall plant with lobed leaves, but it has a more bulbuous cone, the leaf lobes are broader, seeds are not compressed, and has smooth stems.
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- Gray-headed Coneflower plants
- a clump of Gray-headed Coneflower
- garden grown Gray-headed Coneflower
- leaf variation
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County and in a private garden in Lino Lakes.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?