Our roadsides are now coming alive with beautiful blooms and flowers – most coming from what we consider to be plain old weeds. Black eyed Susans, for one.
Lots of those pretty flowers and weeds we see alongside our roads and highways are “come-heres”, native to other countries – Europe, Asia, Africa and the like, but the friendly little Black-eyed Susans are as American as apple pie. They are true natives of North America and we have had a bumper crop of the yellow beauties again this summer.
There are a number of different type of the Rudbeckvia varieties. Some are annuals, others are perennials. Some, still, are biennial, meaning they germinate in the spring but only flower in their second year. All of the species, however, belong to the sunflower family, and as such, they are prized among birds and pollinators alike. And, they have a long shelf-life.
Highly tolerant of drought conditions, Black-eyed Susans bloom from June through October. They grow from about a foot up to 3 feet in height. They are buttercup yellow, though the centers vary from brown to black. They are the state flower of Maryland. At the Preakness, Marylanders say “It’s a run for the Black-eyed Susans”, unlike the Run for the Roses in the Kentucky Derby. The native plants were also an inspiration for the inspiration for the University of Southern Mississippi school colors (black and gold).
Florence Burrow Pope, a member of the university’s first graduating class had this to say: “On a trip home, I saw great masses of Black-eyed Susans in the pine forests. I decided to encourage my senior class to gather them to spell out the name of the class on sheets to be displayed during exercises on Class Day. I then suggested black and gold as class colors, and my suggestion was adopted.”
Doing a little research on all these, basically wildflowers, it’s amazing their medical uses. The Native American used the flowers as a remedy for colds, flu, infection, swelling and for snake bites. It is also an astringent when used in a warm infusion as a wash for sores and swellings. The plant is also a diuretic and the juice from the roots has been used as drops for earaches.
The colorful Susans attract butterflies and make a great border crop for gardens. They propagate very easily from seeds sown in either fall or spring. Simply rake the seeds into a loose topsoil or cover with ¼ to ½ inch of soil or mulch. If possible, supplement with water if fall or spring rains are infrequent and light. The seed takes a few days of moisture and germinate in a week or two.
The long-lasting blooms liven up flower arrangements of all types and birds, especially finches, flock to the cheerful flowers,
Black-eyed Susans. Quite a plant.