Just about the time that bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush make their exit, the Mexican hat flower makes it seasonal debut. Colonies of these wildflowers grace Texas fields and roadsides from East Texas through the Trans-Pecos (the region west of the Pecos River) and to the Panhandle from May through July. Here are a few interesting facts about Mexican hat flowers.
1. A flower with the perfect name.
The Mexican hat is a flower with the perfect name. This hearty flower resembles a Mexican sombrero, the über-broad-brimmed hat typically worn in Mexico and the Southwest. The flower is also known as the long-headed coneflower and thimbleflower — both very descriptive names of this colorful flower that grows as tall as three-plus feet.
2. A flower with the same sombrero shape in different color combinations.
The Mexican hat flower is believed to have originated in Madagascar. This prolific droopy-petaled flower is part of the sunflower family and can be found in solid yellow to yellow-orange to reddish orange combinations. However, regardless of the color combination, the distinctive sombrero shape makes it an easy flower to identify.
3. A flower that can stand the heat.
Make no mistake about it, the Mexican hat is not some sissy high-maintenance flower. Mexican hat graces our Texas highways and byways from May through July and can take the heat. This drought resistant flower makes it perfect for inexperienced gardeners or those who prefer low maintenance gardening.
4. A flower that is on the menu.
The nectar rich Mexican hat attracts beneficial insects, bees, and butterflies. The flower is deer resistant but on the menu for big game animals. Birds and small mammals prefer the seed of the flower. Domestic livestock enjoy this nutritious flower when it is in the early stages of growth.
5. A flower with medicinal qualities.
Native Americans discovered that the Mexican hat flower has some medicinal qualities. Indians boiled the leaves to make a type of tea that they applied externally to treat snakebites and to reduce the symptoms of poison ivy. They reportedly also made a medicinal tea from the ripened flower heads and leaves to treat non-specified medical issues. However, lacking more specific information, it would be best to not try this at home. Stick to drinking good old Lipton Tea instead.