Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are probably one of the best known coneflowers because they grow so abundantly in open and sunny areas in almost any kind of soil. They grow quickly and are sometimes called “pioneer plants” because they are some of the first plants to grow in newly-cleared fields or burned-out areas.

These plants live for only two years. The first year each plant produces a cluster of leaves close to the ground. The second year each plant produces flowers on two to three foot high stiff, branching stems. At the end of this second year after the flowers fade, these plants die.

black-eyed susan flowers

Seeds from the spent flowers germinate in late summer and the young plants live over until the next year to start the cycle all over again.

black-eyed susan with broad petals
black-eyed susan with narrow petals

Each flower is two to three inches across with bright yellow petals (called ray florets) and a brownish-purple dome-like center that becomes more conical as the season progresses.

black-eyed susan showing dome center
black-eyed susan showing more conical center

Some flowers will have as few as eight petals… other flowers will have as many as twenty-one petals… and the petals will also vary in shape and size.

black-eyed susan flowers with different types of petals

Note: Black-Eyed Susan has been put on the list of plants that may cause skin irritation in some people.