Brown-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia triloba

brown-eyed_susan_7-7-14.jpg

Photo of bushy clump of brown-eyed Susan plants.
Brown-eyed Susan is a bushy perennial with much-branching stems. It blooms June–November.
Jim Rathert
Family

Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers)

Description

Bushy perennial with much-branching stems. Flowerheads numerous, much smaller than our other rudbeckias, to 1 inch across. Rays 10–16, bright yellow; ray florets with a ring of maroon-red around the disk are sometimes seen. Disk dark brown. Blooms June–November. Leaves lanceolate, with fine to coarse teeth, hairy, the bases narrowly winged or clasping. Lower leaves 3-lobed but are usually shed before flowering time.

Similar species: There are 9 Rudbeckia species in Missouri. Four of the most common are black-eyed Susan (R. hirta) (generally unbranched, one flowerhead at the branch tips to 4 inches across); wild goldenglow (R. laciniata) (to 9 feet tall, green disk, 6–10 yellow rays, deeply lobed leaves with 3–7 lobes); Missouri black-eyed Susan (R. missouriensis) (much like R. hirta but smaller, very hairy, with all but the lowest leaves linear); and sweet coneflower (R. subtomentosa) (hairy, to 6 feet tall, 12–20 yellow rays per head).

Size

Height: to 5 feet.

brown-eyed_susan_flowers_7-7-14.jpg

Photo of brown-eyed Susan flowers.
Brown-Eyed Susan (Flowers)
The flowerheads of brown-eyed Susan are numerous and are much smaller than other rudbeckias, reaching only about 1 inch across.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in low, wet woods, roadsides, edges of woods, streamsides, and valleys.

image of Brown-Eyed Susan Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered statewide, but apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands, and uncommon in the northwestern quarter of the state.

Human connections

Many rudbeckia species are cultivated as garden ornamentals or sold as cut flowers. Native Americans used them medicinally, for treating a variety of ailments. Some species might be poisonous to livestock, though because of their disagreeable flavor livestock generally avoid eating them.

Ecosystem connections

The aster family (Asteraceae) is perhaps the largest family of flowering plants in the world, with at least 23,000 species. It includes sunflowers, goldenrods, thistles, dandelions, and ragweeds. They all produce flowerheads of densely packed florets that function much like an individual flower.