Skip to content

2

Sometimes simply adding one plant to your yard can attract new insects. This week our Mexican hat or prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) is flowering.

mexican-hat-flower354

Look at all the bugs enjoying the blooms.

_bee-0226

Of course you would expect to see bees visiting flowers.

pollen-coated-bee_0323

This bee was collecting loads of pollen.

beetle-0290Also visiting the flowers were beetles,

lacebug-0311lace bugs,

looper-caterpillar-231and a looper or geometrid caterpillar. Actually, there are two caterpillars in this photograph. Look down and to the left.

tiny-caterpillar-in-focus242Maybe you can see it better in this photograph. It looks like a thread of white on the edge of the petal towards the bottom. It is a first instar or newly-hatched caterpillar.

crab-spider-plus0307Wherever there are bugs feeding on plants, there are predators like this crab spider ready to feed on the bugs.

Our bug this week is a tiny caterpillar.

At first it looked like a bit of debris on the top of a Mexican hat flower.

Upon closer examination, it is a tiny looper caterpillar, Family Geometridae.

I was hoping to learn more, but it disappeared shortly afterwards.

The world can be a harsh place for a tiny caterpillar.

The cone- or column-shaped seed head gave away our mystery seeds to at least a few of you last week. The seeds were from the Mexican hat or prairie coneflower, Ratibida columnifera.

The Mexican hat is named for the way its flower has whimsical resemblance to a colorful sombrero.

The flowers are unusual because the disk flowers in the center form a column, rather than a flat disk as seen in the sunflowers and daisies (hence the species name "columnifera".)

It is fascinating to watch the ray flowers, which look like petals, unfurl from the bottom.

Slowly the disk flowers start to open at the bottom, then move up to the top over a few days.

The leaves are delicate and highly cut in, giving the plant a lacy and open look.

Mexican hats are perennial plants that grow throughout much of North America. They are particularly common in the prairies.

They are will tolerate quite dry conditions and are regularly grown in Arizona.

Mexican hat plants grow readily from seeds. (See a close up photograph of Mexican hat seeds at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

Do Mexican hats grow where you live? Have you ever watched their flowers unfurl?