Black Eyed Susan is the common name of this beautiful yellow flower in the Asteraceae family. It is native to the central and eastern US, but has now been naturalized to all the lower 48 states. The scientific name is Rudbeckia hirta.
It is an annual, or sometimes perennial flower that grows in disturbed areas such as field edges and roadsides. This flower has been bred for different colors of flowers and seeds are available online. They will flower in the first summer if planted in the spring. They can return the following year from established roots. They also readily self-seed, so if you plant once in an area they should return each year from the roots and seeds that are spread in the area.
Black eyed susan is one of many flowers known as coneflowers. The petals spread out from the center of the flower to reveal a chocolate brown colored cone in the center of the flower. The petals of wild black eyed susan are usually some shade of yellow. There are a number of colors that have been brought about through selective breeding.
The plants grow 1-3 feet tall with a single flower on the end of a long stem. The leaves grow mostly close to the ground, but there are a few alternating leaves up the stem. The stem and leaves are covered in course hair. The flowers are from 12-18 inches wide.
Black eyed susan begins blooming in June and will continue to bloom through August and into early September. They are hardy flowers that tolerate a wide range of soils, except for soil that stays wet due to poor drainage. They prefer full sun but will grow in partial shade. It is a butterfly attractant so if you are planting a butterfly garden it would be a good idea to include this flower.
The plant is mildly toxic and may cause skin irritation. It may be harmful to dogs, cats and livestock if eaten. Deer avoid eating them, so if you have a deer problem in your garden, this flower should be one you can plant without worrying about fencing. It can also be toxic to cattle and pigs, so you might want to eradicate it from grazing areas to prevent any problems.
The black eyed susan is a lovely flower whether you see it along a roadside or grow them in a garden. Although Native Americans used them for a few medicinal purposes, they don’t have medicinal or edible qualities. They just brighten up your day!