Native Wildflower Ratibida Columnifera Repels Deer?

Ratibida columnifera
(Mexican hat, upright prairie coneflower, thimbleflower) with
Santolina pinnata (green Lavender cotton) in the background. June 2012

Debuting in my deer resistant meadow garden this year is the US native wildflower, ratibida columnifera, commonly called Mexican hat. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center database, the foliage of this native has a strong smell that repels deer. But wait—there's a catch! The same database says that deer will eat this flower. Hmm...

Currently growing beside my open meadow where the deer congregate each night for slumber parties, there's nary a nibble so far. I've not detected an offensive smell—but I'm not a deer!

The height at this point is just over two feet, but with the see-through quality of the airy foliage, it works well at the edge of the garden.

I'm sharing photos before the entire plant is at peak bloom because I'm so excited over the flowers—and in case the deer do decide to nibble the blooms! Slowly, the cones are fuzzing up and I anticipate that this native will bloom for months. Ratibida is a nectar source for bees and butterflies.

Being cautious with my experiment, I sowed the seeds in the driest part of my garden. According to the information on this plant, it can spread aggressively and crowd out other plants. This drought-tolerant plant can also handle moist locations.

I adore the rich chocolate-maroon drooping rays on the ratibida petals. My test plant is growing with rudbeckia hirtagaillardia and santolina pinnata. I think the rudbeckia yellow complements the yellow scalloped edging on the ratibida the best, so I may go with those two in future meadow plantings—as long as the deer don't eat the blooms!

Ratibida columnifera in combination with other seed-sown flowers,
rudbeckia hirta (right) and gaillardia (left)


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