Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
The long-headed coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) grows in open ground and prairies across much of North America. It is drought-tolerant and tough and, if provided with well-drained soil, makes a great garden plant for a sunny spot.
It blooms from June through late summer, even into early fall, and the flowers give off a lovely, sweet scent. The flower head is supposedly reminiscent of a sombrero, hence the alternative common name of “Mexican hat.”
The drooping “petals” are actually ray-florets—modified flowers—typical of the aster family. Its true flowers are tiny and clustered around the tall, central cone.
Two forms exist, one with yellow ray-florets and a dark maroon form, which can be seen in our Herb Garden.