BLACKEYED SUSAN Rudbeckia hirta
The Psalmist praised God by saying, “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5).
Several months ago we examined the oxeye daisy (leucanthemum vulgare). We noted that it is known for the “she loves me, she loves me not” game. I mention this bloom because, as an immigrant from Europe, it spread westward competing with today’s wildflower.
Black-eyed Susan, native to North America, had its beginning on the Great Plains from eastern Colorado to the Mississippi River, from Oklahoma into the Canadian provinces.
When European settlers started moving westward, villages were established where wagon trails crossed rivers. Soon commercial traffic moved goods in both directions along these trails.
Seeds of the black-eyed Susan migrated eastward with the prairie schooners, in the same way the oxeye daisy migrated westward in the hay that was shipped to feed the oxen and horses. Today, both plants are present from Maine to California and from Washington to Florida.
Whereas we could write two or three pages on the oxeye daisy, little can be noted about the black-eyed Susan. It has no fragrance and no medicinal history. The flower is larger and the plant is taller than the oxeye daisy. According to some horticulturists, it is the most common of all our native wildflowers.
The name, Rudbeckia, was given to the plant to honor a Swedish professor who assisted the famous botanist Linnaeus. The word hirta is Latin for “hairy” which refers to the stem and leaves.
The composite blossom measures 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches wide. It has 10 to 20 bright yellow petals (rays) around a reddish-brown, domed center. The center is actually a large cluster of florets, each with stamen and pistil bearing seeds. The 2- to 3- foot tall plant has leaves that alternate up the stem to the single flower at the top.
Black-eyed Susan thrives in bright sun. It is easy to grow in well drained sandy soil that has little or no nutrients (fertilizing them will stunt their growth).
Be aware of its prolific nature because one plant can multiply 20-fold in a year and can become a pest unless controlled. The seeds germinate in less than 30 days, and in as few as seven days when the soil is 70 degrees.
People who grow black-eyed Susans are rewarded with an abundance of blooms from late spring to early fall, and it is one of the most long-lasting of cut flowers. Black-eyed Susans, when cut and placed in a vase, can last from six to 10 days. When left on the plant the bloom may last for a month. Butterflies, moths and bees thrive on its nectar.
The Psalmist’s proclamation is true: “the Lord is good; … and his truth endureth to all generations.” Our lives are truly enriched by such long lasting beauty.
In a similar way, we are blessed by the kind, generous and forgiving ways of persons who take Jesus’ counsel to “love our neighbor as we love ourself.”
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.