Ratibida columnifera (Prairie Coneflower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Upright Prairie Coneflower, Long-headed Coneflower, Mexican Hat
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry fields, prairies, along roads, railroads
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals

[photo of flowers] 1 to several long-stalked flower heads at the top of the stem and arising from the uppermost leaf axils. Flowers have 4 to 12 droopy, wide, bright yellow petals (ray flowers), notched at the tip, around an erect, cylindrical cone. Rays are occasionally deep red or yellow streaked with red. The cone is up to 1½ inches long and covered with hundreds of tiny brown or purplish disk flowers that bloom from the bottom of the cone up; the upper part of the cone not yet blooming is gray to gray-green. The bracts surrounding the base of the flower are in 2 layers, the outer linear and the inner shorter and broader. Flowers rise well above the leaves on ribbed stalks up to 12 inches long.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 6 inches long and deeply divided, giving the appearance of compound leaves but are merely deeply lobed with 5 to 13 segments that are linear to lance-linear and may be further divided or shallowly lobed. Edges are mostly toothless, surfaces rough from stiff, appressed hairs. Stems are multiple from the base, mostly unbranched, rough-hairy, and leafy in the lower half.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The cone becomes a head of tiny, hairy, narrowly winged, brown seeds.


Prairie Coneflower is a smaller plant than most other yellow flowered coneflowers. Its cone is rather long compared to others, with the rays usually about as long as the cone where other coneflowers in Minnesota have rays much longer than their cone. While rays are typically yellow, there is also a variety or form pulcherrima that has dark red rays with yellow edges, commonly called Mexican Hat, that is readily available in the nursery trade. It is occasionally found naturally occurring in the wild but may also escape cultivation.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County, in a private garden in Lino Lakes, and in North Dakota.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: sarah
on: 2010-07-10 15:32:14

There is a single R. columnifera var. pulcherrima growing in Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (St Paul). It blooms presently.

Posted by: Al - Maplewood
on: 2011-07-08 18:02:55

I found the red variety today near Battle Creek Park on the County Correctional Facility property.

Posted by: Sue - Zimmerman
on: 2011-07-13 18:14:37

I found the dark red with yellow edges in my field today, only found 2 plants so far.

Posted by: Linda - Dakota County
on: 2011-08-09 23:03:37

This is currently blooming in my boulevard garden. Between this, the asclepias tuberosa, joe-pye, and echinacea purpurea, I am overrun with monarchs, tiger swallowtails, Baltimore checkerspots, red admirals, honeybees and bumblebees!

Posted by: clayton
on: 2013-03-06 16:06:14

many along paul bunyan bike trail between guthrie and nary

Posted by: Jacquie - Pope & Swift County
on: 2013-08-12 09:04:34

Delightful. So fun to see the way they pop out through the prairie grasses. A year ago I moved back to west central MN after 35 years gone. Big wildflower lover & didn't notice many of these last year in my wanderings. Glad I snapped some pics this year.

Posted by: Susan Taylor - Blaine
on: 2022-07-01 12:07:03

It's growing in mass near my house in the wetlands. Very pretty

Posted by: Yahya Frederickson - Moorhead
on: 2022-07-21 01:37:35

I've planted them in my native planting pollinator front yard, but they seem to prefer my patches of lawn! I think they like open edges--less crowded than the monarda and echinacea-heavy garden.

Posted by: Cynthia Sabinske - Camden State Park, Lynd MN
on: 2023-07-25 13:24:49

Many coneflowers observed today when I checked the Bluebird nestboxes on the way to the upper campground!

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