gray-headed coneflower

(Ratibida pinnata)

Conservation Status
gray-headed coneflower
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Gray-headed coneflower is an erect, 16 to 48 tall, perennial forb that rises on a single stem or 2 to 12 or more stems from fibrous roots and either a woody, underground, storage organ (caudex), or often a short, stout, horizontal, underground stem (rhizome). It sometimes appears clustered.

A single stem or 2 to 12 or more stems rises from a rosette of basal leaves. The stem is erect, rough to the touch, and branched only above the middle. It has several longitudinal ridges. It is moderately to densely covered with coarse, short, straight, stiff, ascending, usually appressed hairs. It is sometimes hairless near the base. It also has scattered, minute, stalkless, yellow glands.

Basal and lower stem leaves are lance-shaped to egg-shaped, inversely lance-shaped to inversely egg-shaped, or oblong in outline, up to 16 long, and up to 6 wide. They are on long leaf stalks. Each leaf is either deeply lobed (pinnatifid) with 3 to 9 narrow lobes cut nearly to the midvein or pinnately divided into 3 to 9 narrow leaflets. The leaflets on pinnate leaves are often toothed and shallowly or deeply lobed. The ultimate lobes and undivided leaflets are narrowly lance-shaped to egg-shaped, up to 6 long, and up to 1 wide. They have 1 or 3 main, parallel veins. The upper and lower surfaces are rough to the touch. They are moderately to densely covered with short, straight, stiff, sharp, appressed to more or less spreading hairs. They are also dotted with scattered, minute, stalkless or impressed, yellow glands. The margins are usually untoothed. The leaves become smaller, shorter stalked, and less divided as they ascend the stem. Upper stem leaves are stalkless and often undivided and lance-shaped.

The inflorescence is a single, showy flower head at the end of each stem and branch. Most plants have 1 to 12 flower heads. The flower heads are held well above the leaves. Each flower head is at the end if a leafless, prominently ribbed, 1¼ to 10½ long stalk (peduncle).

The whorl of bracts at the base of the flower head (involucre) is narrowly saucer-shaped, more or less round with a shallow depth. It is composed of 10 to 15 bracts (phyllaries) in 2 overlapping series. The outer phyllaries are linear, to long, and 1 32 to wide. The inner phyllaries are narrowly egg-shaped, to ¼ long, and 1 64 to wide.

The flower head has 6 to 15 ray florets and 100 to 200 or more disk florets. The ray florets are yellow, linear ellipse-shaped to oblong inversely egg-shaped, 13 16 to 2 long, and 3 16 to wide. They droop downward at the base of the receptacle. The receptacle is usually oblong or egg-shaped, sometimes nearly globe-shaped, to 1 long, and to ¾ wide. It is covered with disk florets. The disk florets are 1 16 to wide and greenish-yellow, sometimes purple tinged toward the tip.

The fruit is a dry, one-seeded, 1 16 to long seed capsule (cypsela). The tip of the cypsela is flattened and has no hairs but often 1 or 2 tooth-like projections.




16 to 48


Flower Color


Yellow ray florets, light green or gray head, dark brown disk florets


Similar Species


Long-headed coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) is usually much shorter, no more than 24 in height. The ray florets are shorter, no more than 1 long. The disk is column-shaped and much longer, up to 2 long.


Dry to wet. Prairies, woodland openings. Full sun.




June to August


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


Asteraceae (sunflowers, daisies, asters, and allies)  
  Subfamily Asteroideae  
  Supertribe Helianthodae  
  Tribe Heliantheae (sunflowers and allies)  
  Subtribe Rudbeckiinae (black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and prairie coneflowers)  
  Genus Ratibida (coneflowers)  

Subordinate Taxa






Lepachys pinnata

Rudbeckia pinnata


Common Names


drooping prairie-coneflower

globular coneflower

grayhead prairieconeflower

gray-head prairie-coneflower

gray-headed coneflower

pinnate prairie coneflower

pinnate-leaf prairie-coneflower

prairie coneflower

yellow coneflower









Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.



A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded fruit, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed from the wall of the inferior ovary and also from other tissues derived from the receptacle or hypanthium, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.



A whorl of bracts beneath or surrounding a flower or flower cluster.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



An individual bract within the involucre of a plant in the Asteraceae family.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



Deeply cut, more than half way to the midrib but not to the midrib, into lobes that are spaced out along the midrib; the lobes do not form separate leaflets.



The thickened, upper part of a flower stalk to which flowers or flower parts are attached. In composite flowers, the part on which the flowers are borne. In accessory fruits the receptacle gives rise to the edible part of the fruit.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

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    gray-headed coneflower      

Flower Head

    gray-headed coneflower   gray-headed coneflower  

Flower Heads

    gray-headed coneflower   gray-headed coneflower  


    gray-headed coneflower   gray-headed coneflower  


    gray-headed coneflower   gray-headed coneflower  


    gray-headed coneflower   gray-headed coneflower  


    gray-headed coneflower      



  Rudbeckia laciniata (Tall Coneflower)
Allen Chartier
  Rudbeckia laciniata (Tall Coneflower)  
  Ratibida pinnata YELLOW CONEFLOWER
Frank Mayfield
  Ratibida pinnata YELLOW CONEFLOWER  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Minnesota Native Plant - Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida Pinnata)

Published on Aug 13, 2013

Todays plant is a tall prairie plant, the Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida Pinnata).

  Yellow Coneflower - Ratibida pinnata blooming at Ion Exchange

Uploaded on Aug 1, 2011

Earthyman views Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) in full bloom at Ion Exchange in Northeast Iowa

  Gray headed Coneflower

Uploaded on Aug 3, 2009

A sunny reminder of a wonderful afternoon, with a very special person, my beloved husband.




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Afton State Park

Baker Park Reserve

Belgium Prairie

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blue Mounds State Park

Bonanza Prairie SNA

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Cambria WMA

Camden State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cedar Rock SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Des Moines River SNA

Dodge Nature Center

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Flandrau State Park

Fort Ridgely State Park

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Kasota Prairie

Kasota Prairie SNA

Kilen Woods State Park

Lake Bronson State Park

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Leif Mountain

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

McKnight Prairie

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Monson Lake State Park

Mound Prairie SNA

Myre-Big Island State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Osmundson Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Pilot Knob

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Prairie Bush Clover SNA

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Racine Prairie SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake State Park

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Seven Springs WMA

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Spring Creek Prairie SNA

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Lake Regional Park

Staffanson Prairie

Strandness Prairie

Swedes Forest SNA

Tamarack Nature Center

Tiedemann WMA

Tribute WMA

Twin Lakes SNA

Twin Valley WMA: North Unit

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Whitewater State Park

Wild Indigo SNA

Wood-Rill SNA

Woodbury WMA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA







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