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Black-Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia
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Black-Eyed Susan is surely one of the most beloved plants in the wildflower and perennial garden.  It is yet another member of the Aster family, and close family members include annuals, biennials, and perennials.  However,  most behave like biennials - growing clumps of foliage the first year and flowering the second.  (In long-season areas, some may flower in the first year).

Black-Eyed Susans are very easy-care plants with no special requirements in the garden other than well-drained soil and full sun or near-full sun.  They are included in many perennial and wildflower mixes, and are a common sight along roadways and in disturbed areas due to their prolific growth and successful self-seeding.  In the garden, they make a good naturalizing plant, but beware, some years may be more colorful than others due to their biennial-type growth habit.  They self seed freely, and the roots of perennial specimens can be divided in the fall for more plants.  They can be started easily by seed in the fall, in flats 6 weeks before the last frost, or early in the spring for bloom the next year.  In the garden, they are rather nondescript plants before blooming, so other ornamentals that bloom a little earlier are a good idea to keep the show going. 

Black-Eyed Susans are a very close relative of the venerable herb, Echinacea, and there is some indication that the root has at least the medicinal qualities of Echinacea, and may be an even stronger medicinal plant for the same medical complaints.  More study is needed to confirm this, however.  See Echinacea in Medicine for more information.   Indians used tea made from the roots (and sometimes the leaves) of the plant internally for elimination of worms, for cold symptoms, and topically as a remedy for sores, cuts, and scrapes.  The juice squeezed from the roots was used for earaches.  The seeds of most Black-Eyed Susans are poisonous, so steer clear of the seed for any herbal uses.  The leaves appear to be safe if used in teas internally or topically. 

Lastly, with their sturdy stems, Black-Eyed Susans make wonderful long-lasting, cheery cut flowers for arrangements.  In the garden, they are a strong draw for beneficial insects and wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and as such make a wonderful addition to a habitat-type situation.  Black-Eyed Susans are also quite drought tolerant, and as such makes a welcome and useful addition to the garden in very hot, dry areas.

 

 

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