Gray-Headed Coneflower

Ratibida pinnata

Gray-Headed Coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers

grayheaded

Here’s another native coneflower with a thimble-shaped head and drooping petals, but this time the head is gray to brown in color and the pale yellow, drooping “petals” (or ray flowers) number only 5 to 10.  This is Gray-Headed Coneflower, and like the Green-Headed Coneflower, the leaves of this plant are alternate. The gray-headed coneflower has deeply cut leaves that form narrow lobes (pinnately compound). The stem is very rigid and slightly hairy. See the illustration to the right.

This is a common prairie wildflower in the midwest, but it can also be found growing wild along roadsides and wood margins in Virginia.  It can tolerate moist or dry growing conditions.

The photos here are actually from my friend’s farm (Brian Murphy) in Craig County. He planted a wildflower mix in what had historically been hayfields, in an effort to restore native wildlife habitat. I think the results are really spectacular!  And if you are curious, see the same fields earlier in the season when they are saturated with coreopsis.

A field of purple and gray-headed coneflowers
A field of purple and gray-headed coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers grow up to 4 feet tall
Gray-Headed Coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers turn brown from the bottom up
Gray-Headed Coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers
Gray-Headed Coneflowers
A mixed field of Purple Coneflower, Gray-Headed Coneflower and Coreopsis
A mixed field of Purple Coneflower, Gray-Headed Coneflower and Sunflowers

Illustration from: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 474.

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