Black-Eyed Susan, Brown-Eyed Susan, and Olof Rudbeck the Younger
A couple of years ago I transplanted some surplus Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) to the Parkway Border. They prospered, and were soon joined by a couple of volunteer Brown-Eyed-Susan (R. triloba). Around this time of year, as a result, there is a big cheerful drift of golden yellow in front of our house. Passing drivers would have to be distracted indeed not to notice.
There are at least 10 species in the genus Rudbeckia and countless cultivars and hybrids, but these are the only two I grow. Both are the straight species. I have nothing against the popular cultivar ‘Goldsturm’, but I really don’t see how it is superior to plain old R. fulgida.
A fall or late summer garden in the Midwest without Rudbeckias would be like a Labor Day picnic without sweet corn. Both of my Rudbeckias are adaptable and resilient. They are not deterred by neglect or challenging conditions. And both have the pioneer spirit: you are likely to find them staking a claim to just about any spot in your garden. In my opinion, they both look their best when planted in masses.
Black-Eyed Susan is the more compact of the two, growing 2-3′. Another common name is orange coneflower. If you look closely, you will see that the petals (ray flowers, actually) are orange near the central cone, then golden yellow further out.
Some dislike the fact that R. fulgida is so widely used, but to these persons I say, “Pshaw!” It’s widely used because it is such a fabulous plant!
Brown-Eyed Susan is my favorite Rudbeckia. It can grow quite tall and is best cut back by half around the end of May. The ray flowers are short and rounded, the composite flowers smaller but produced in great abundance.
Carl Linnaeus named Rudbeckia after Olof Rudbeck the Younger, a renowned Swedish scientist at the University of Upsala while Linnaeus was an impoverikshed student there. Olof took Linnaeus in and gave him a job tutoring his three grandchildren. Years later, Linnaeus named this magnificent genus of flowers after his patron.
Do you have a favorite Rudbeckia?