This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flower-heads - From 10 to 20 orange-yellow neutral rays around a conical, dark purplish-brown disk of florets containing both stamens and pistil. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. tall, hairy, rough, usually unbranched, often tufted. Leaves: Oblong to lance-shaped, thick, sparingly notched, rough.
Black-Eyed Susan Or Ox-Eye Daisy. (tRudbeckia hirta.)
Preferred Habitat - Open sunny places; dry fields.
Flowering Season - May - September.
Distribution - Ontario and the Northwest Territory south to Colorado and the Gulf States.
So very many weeds having come to our Eastern shores from Europe, and marched farther and farther west year by year, it is but fair that black-eyed Susan, a native of Western clover fields, should travel toward the Atlantic in bundles of hay whenever she gets the chance, to repay Eastern farmers in their own coin. Do these gorgeous heads know that all our showy rudbeckias - some with orange red at the base of their ray florets - have become prime favorites of late years in European gardens, so offering them still another chance to overrun the Old World, to which so much American hay is shipped? Thrifty farmers may decry the importation into their mowing lots, but there is a glory to the cone-flower beside which the glitter of a gold coin fades into paltry nothingness. Having been instructed in the decorative usefulness of all this genus by European landscape gardeners, we Americans now importune the Department of Agriculture for seeds through members of Congress, even Representatives of States that have passed stringent laws against the dissemination of "weeds." Inasmuch as each black-eyed Susan puts into daily operation the business methods of the white daisy (see p. 270), methods which have become a sort of creed for the entire composite horde to live by, it is plain that she may defy both farmers and legislators. Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles could not be kept away from an entertainer so generous; for while the nectar in the deep, tubular brown florets may be drained only by long, slender tongues, pollen is accessible to all. Anyone who has had a jar of these yellow daisies standing on a polished table indoors, and tried to keep its surface free from a ring of golden dust around the flowers, knows how abundant their pollen is. There are those who vainly imagine that the slaughter of dozens of English sparrows occasionally is going to save this land of liberty from being overrun with millions of the hardy little gamins that have proved themselves so fit in the struggle for survival. As vainly may farmers try to exterminate a composite that has once taken possession of their fields.
Blazing hot sunny fields, in which black-eyed Susan feels most comfortable, suit the Tall or Green-headed Cone-flower or Thimble-weed (R. laciniata) not at all. Its preference is for moist thickets such as border swamps and meadow runnels. Consequently it has no need of the bristly-hairy coat that screens the yellow daisy from too fierce sunlight, and great need of more branches and leaves. (See prickly pear, p. 319.) This is a smooth, much branched plant, towering sometimes twelve feet high, though commonly not even half that height; its great lower leaves, on long petioles, have from three to seven divisions variously lobed and toothed; while the stem leaves are irregularly three to five parted or divided. The numerous showy heads, which measure from two and a half to four inches across, have from six to ten bright yellow rays drooping a trifle around a dull greenish-yellow conical disk that gradually lengthens to twice its breadth, if not more, as the seeds mature. July - September. Quebec to Montana, and southward to the Gulf of Mexico.