Thursday, October 23, 2014

100 Species to Know by Sight - #4 Black-eyed Susan

The next species on my list of 100 species that every kid (and adult) in Mid-Michigan should be able to identify by sight is the Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).  This plant is both common as a wildflower and in gardens.  It can be found across most of the Lower 48 and the southern tier of Canadian provinces.  Because this species is a popular garden plant it can be difficult to determine which populations are native and which have escaped from cultivation. 

Black-eyed Susan flowers
Black-eyed Susan can be identified by it dark brown-black, cone-shaped central disc surrounded by 8-20 bright yellow rays (petals).  The flower can be up to 3 inches across.  The plant blooms from mid-Summer into fall.

Black-eyed Susan - note the dark central disc surrounded by bright yellow rays

Black-eyed Susan plants grow up to 2.5 feet tall.  The plants have alternate leaves that can be up to 7 inches long.  The leaves are concentrated on the lower part of the plant's stem.  both the leaves and stems are covered with a dense covering of hair.

Black-eyed Susan - not the alternate leaves and hairy, leafless upper stem

Black-eyed Susan grows in a variety of upland habitats, in both sun and partial shade.  It is a short-lived plant that does well in disturbed habitats.  It is often used in prairie restorations, where it does well for several years before being crowded out by its competitors.

Black-eyed Susan in a prairie restoration
For the previous species in this series of 11 Species to Know by Sight look here.

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