If your name was ‘Rudbeckia,’ you wouldn’t mind ‘Black-Eyed Susan’

If your name was ‘Rudbeckia,’ you wouldn’t mind ‘Black-Eyed Susan’

The classic Black-Eyed Susan is known and loved by all gardeners. You may also know them by Coneflower or their common name, Rudbeckia. They look great in fields or pastures growing wild but are equally stunning in more “domesticated” settings. Picture them in your yard with their bright, yellow-gold petals and picture perfect dark brown, rounded centers.

According to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden website, the Rudbeckia is native to western North America. It began to spread eastward around 1830 when accidently mixed with clover and hayseed bound for the eastern United States. Once introduced in the new location, this cheerful flower thrived very well and is now found all through most of the United States.

There are around 25 species of Black-Eyed Susan, plus lots of varieties and cultivars. Carl Linneaus (the father of the plant and animal naming system) named Rudbeckia in honor of father and son Swedish botanists Olaus Rudbek Sr. and Olasus Rudbek Jr. Both father and son were Linneaus’s botany professors when he was a medical student.

Black-Eyed Susan are biennial (flower every other year) so the first few years, they should be planted annually to make sure that you will have flowering plants every year. You will find them happily blooming during the spring and summer and early fall until its frosty outside. They like well-draining sandy soil. The roots go out laterally instead of deeply. The large number of roots spread far and draw water in to help the plant survive dry spells.

Butterflies love the yellow flower petals, as do our “world-saving” bees and other pollen and nectar loving insects. An interesting aside: Black-Eyed Susan is the state flower of Maryland. Each year, the horseracing world holds the Triple Crown’s Preakness. The race is known as “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.” The winning horse is given a blanket made of the fabulous yellow and brown flowers. (Please e-mail me at joreger [at] msn [dot] com if you have firsthand knowledge or photos of this fun event.)

Rudbeckia or Coneflower are cousins of the Echinacea, Dracopis and Ratbida. They are known as the symbol of encouragement. This is one flowering hero that will last through the heat of August and well into the fall. It is indeed a winner!

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