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Rudbeckia hirta, the Black-Eyed Susan (1 of 2)

From “Rudbeckia (Asteraceae)” in Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“The name [Rudbeckia] was bestowed by Linnaeus, in honor of his teacher at Uppsala University in Sweden, Olof Rudbeck the Younger, and his father, Olof Rudbeck the Elder. It is the dark centres to these golden-yellow daisies which draw us to them — hence, the common name black-eyed Susans (coneflower is another). There are 23 species, all rapidly growing herbaceous perennials and all native to North America, largely the midwestern and eastern U.S. states….

“Rudbeckias are generalists, growing in a wide range of both open and lightly shaded habitats, from virgin prairie to waste ground, but preferring moister and more fertile soils. Of the species in cultivation, Rudbeckia hirta and R. triloba are short-lived non-clonal perennials, often members of pioneer communities; the remainder are clonal and competitive, often strongly spreading, although not always persistent. Rudbeckias have had a minor role in Native American medicine, sometimes as a substitute for echinacea.”


Hello!

Last week I went hunting at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens for some of the tiny, colorful asters that I’ve previously photographed around this time of year (see, for example Autumn Asters (1 of 3), Autumn Asters (2 of 3), and Autumn Asters (3 of 3)). I was a little too early, as it turns out, finding only tiny buds not yet ready to open — but I did come across some substantial gatherings of the flowers featured in the images below. The first three photos will give you some idea of the flower volume: a bloom-forest teaming with moths, bees, and other wee pollinators bouncing among the “eyes” of these Black-eyed Susans.

Black-eyed Susans are members of the Asteraceae family — so I guess I actually did find asters, just not the ones I was looking for. Wikipedia lists nine other common names for Black-eyed Susans, including Coneflower, Brown-eyed Susan, Brown Betty, Gloriosa Daisy, Golden Jerusalem, English Bull’s Eye, Poor-Land Daisy, Yellow Daisy, and Yellow Ox-eye Daisy — and many of these names likely have some fun historical roots and local usages. I did asked one of the AI tools if the name “Susan” in “Black-eyed Susan” once referred to any specific person, and here’s what I sort-of learned from ClaudeAI:

There are a few theories about the origin of the “Susan” part of the name Black-eyed Susan, but unfortunately there is no definitive evidence pinpointing exactly who Susan refers to. Here are some of the main theories:

  • One belief is that it was named after an English woman called Susan who frequently handed out flowers, including rudbeckias. This may explain the flower’s association with cheerfulness and hospitality.
  • A common legend says it was named by European settlers for a native Algonquin woman who helped them learn wildflower names. This speaks to its native North American origins.
  • Some think it may be biblical in origin and refer to Susanna from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament.
  • There are unverified references to individual women named Susan in colonial America for whom the flower was informally named.
  • It may simply refer generically to the archetype of a strong, plainspoken woman, as Susan sometimes represented in folk culture.

Unfortunately there is no solid evidence for any of these possibilities over the others. The name was in use by the late 1700s, but the exact inspiration remains mysterious. So while the “Susan” in Black-eyed Susan is vivid, the specific person or meaning behind it has been lost to history.


It was an overcast day when I took these photos, which made the flowers glow against their dark green backgrounds, and the filtered light accentuated a color shift from yellow toward a more saturated orange. The “eyes” actually vary in color and include both black and dark brown, making, I guess, some of these “Brown-eyed Susans” instead. The brown ones reflect a bit more yellow or orange shades than the blacker ones, on which you may see reflected bits of blue color along with the black.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!






Lantana camara ‘Mary Ann’ (3 of 3)

From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (Vol. 4) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:

“[Lantana] is not particular as to soil, provided the exposure is sunny, and also that the soil is well supplied with moisture at least until a fair growth has been made. When well established the plants do not seem to mind drought, and continue bright and attractive in the hottest weather. They should not be transplanted out in the open before danger of frost is over. If the old plants are wanted for propagation, cut them back and transfer to pots early in September, and when they start into new growth the soft wood will furnish cuttings that root easily. Keep young stock in a warm position through the winter months, and repot in April….

“Save the old plants, after frost has nipped their freshness late in autumn, prune severely back, remove them indoors, giving them a temperature anywhere above 40 degrees, and with a little attention and fresh soil, every plant will be a perfect specimen, covered with blooms in May.

“Gardeners train them into fine standards, as prim and shapely as need be.”

From “Verbenaceae” in Flowers of the Veld by Kay Linley:

“This family consists mainly of shrubs and trees, and many herbaceous members of the family are slightly shrubby in growth. Most of them have square stems and leaves in opposite pairs, and most of them are distinctly aromatic, having a strong smell when handled or crushed, sometimes a pleasant scent, and in some cases a disagreeable odour. One of the best known species in this country is Lantana camara, a straggling, very prickly bush, originally introduced from America; this has spread widely over large areas of the country and is now declared a noxious weed. It has quite pretty, circular heads of orange and red flowers followed by black berries, but it is held responsible for a number of cases of cattle poisoning. It is also encroaching rapidly onto grazing lands, and an effort is being made to eradicate it entirely.

Lantana angolensis is an erect, unbranched plant of up to fifty centimetres in height, flowering early in the year, and common in woodland clearings and on waste land. The stems are square, hairy, and woody towards the base, and the leaves grow on short stalks, either in pairs or in whorls of three around the stem. They are narrowly oval with a slight point, evenly toothed around the edges and hairy on both surfaces. The tiny, bright mauve flowers are borne in axillary and terminal clusters, half a dozen or so in a cluster surrounded by a ring of green bracts, the whole on a short, hairy stalk. More noticeable than the flowers and more attractive are the juicy, bright purple berries which follow them; these are much enjoyed by many kinds of birds.”


Hello!

This is the last of three posts featuring lantana from my garden; the first post is Lantana camara ‘Mary Ann’ (1 of 3) and the second post is Lantana camara ‘Mary Ann’ (2 of 3). Here I adjusted cropping and recast some of the previous photos on black backgrounds. They always look like colorful pieces of candy to me when rendered this way; and, as it turns out, there are lantana varieties with “candy” in the name — including cotton candy, candy crush, and candy-candy!

Thanks for taking a look!







Lantana camara ‘Mary Ann’ (2 of 3)

From “Invaders of the Plant World” in The Plant Hunters by Carolyn Fry:

“One unwelcome side effect of the myriad transfers of plants and seeds around the world is the translocation of ‘invasive’ species. Plants arriving on foreign shores with an agreeable environment and a lack of predators have often quickly become naturalized. Those also encountering a ready pollinator or suitable means for dispersing seeds have been able to spread rapidly. In some cases, the new conditions have made the plant much more successful in its new locale than in its indigenous habitat. When a plant becomes disruptive to native flora in a particular location, it is deemed invasive….

“The brightly colored flowers of Lantana camara made it a popular garden flower in Europe when it arrived there from Central and South America. As the colonial powers expanded into the tropics it, too, became widely dispersed. Today, it is considered a problem in at least 50 countries. Since it was introduced to South Africa in 1880, it has invaded natural forests, plantations, overgrazed or burnt veld (grassland), orchards, rocky hillsides, and fields….

“It arrived on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands in 1938 as an ornamental. Since 1970, it has replaced Scalesia pedunculata forest and dry vegetation of Croton, Macraea, and Darwiniothamnus. Two of the three populations of Lecocarpus pinnatifidus and one of Scalesia villosa, both endemic to Floreana, the smallest island in the Galapagos, face elimination if the invader continues to advance. If Lantana reaches the crater area of Cerro Pajas, it will endanger the last remaining nesting colony of dark-rumped petrels on the Galapagos Islands. Thorny thickets of Lantana are so dense they would prevent the birds from making their nesting burrows at the breeding site.”


Hello!

This is the second of three posts featuring lantana from my garden; the first post is Lantana camara ‘Mary Ann’ (1 of 3).

If you spend any time researching lantana, you’ll quickly find that in various parts of the world, it’s considered a seriously invasive species — owing in part to its rapid growth, entangling brush, and how its brush becomes woody and hard to cut as seasons progress and it spreads. The quotation above from Carolyn Fry’s The Plant Hunters above is one example, where she describes how it has impacted the Galapagos Islands flora, and it was my first encounter with a description of the plant’s potential impact on a avian species, the seabirds known as petrels.

As I’ve photographed and written about lantana each year, I’ve tried to learn a bit more about it with every post. If you’d like to peruse my other coverage of its invasiveness, its appearance in literature and film, and different ways I’ve photographed it, this tag — lantana — will take you to all my prior posts.

Thanks for taking a look!








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